Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar. Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
This week's featured storis come from Discovery News, LiveScience, and Texas Tech.
Is Tau Better Than Pi?
Pi Day is the annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi! It happens every year on March 14, since the numbers match the first three digits of pi. Is there anything better than pi? Tara joins Trace to discuss whether or not tau is better than pi.
Happy Pi Day! Fun Facts About Our Favorite Irrational Number
by Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
March 14, 2014 07:49am ET
Math lovers celebrate today (3/14) as Pi Day, in honor of the irrational number pi.
Pi, or ?, is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi is an irrational number, meaning it cannot be written as a simple fraction. Instead, it can be expressed as an infinite, nonrepeating decimal (3.14159…) or approximated as the fraction 22/7.
Here are some nerdy facts about the irrational number, to impress your friends as you celebrate Pi Day (which is also Albert Einstein's birthday).
Easy as Pi: Alum Hopes Pie Pan Leads to Sweet Success
When Garrett Heath realized such a product didn't exist, he took matters into his own hands.
Written by Megan Ketterer
March 14, 2014
Pi or pie? With today (March 14) being celebrated around the nation as Pi Day, these homophones can be confusing, especially when baking pies is a popular way to celebrate the famous mathematical constant.
A Texas Tech University alumnus decided to combine these words and create something for everyone to enjoy on Pi Day: a Pi Pie Pan, a pan in the shape of the pi symbol designed for baking pies.
“It’s a fun way for people to show off being a little geeky while enjoying to cook,” said Garrett Heath, creator of the pan. “There’s no better way to make a pie on Pi Day than to have a pi-shaped pan.”
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
WATCH THIS SPACE!
Green diary rescue: Fracktivists across several states, #Up4Climate talkathon, climate storytelling
by Meteor Blades
What's in a Name?
This week in science: Sleek, fast and banned!
Smithsonian Air and Space: Air, a Photo Diary
by Lenny Flank
ABC 33/40: Local doctor studies link between veterans and ALS
By Candace Sweat
Posted: Mar 06, 2014 6:16 PM EDT Updated: Mar 06, 2014 6:56 PM EDT
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, affects two in every 100,000 people. The neurological disease attacks voluntary muscle movement that can lead to paralysis and eventually death. Unfortunately, our former service men and women are twice as likely to develop ALS compared to those who have not served in the military.
ALS is a very complicated disease and researchers haven't pinpointed exactly what causes it, or why our veterans are twice as likely to get it.
Doctor Peter King is hopeful the research he does at UAB and Birmingham VA Medical Center will yield results in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. But he's up against the clock.
NASA: NASA Administrator Checks Out SLS Flight Avionics on This Week @NASA
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden visited Marshall Space Flight Center to see work being done on the avionics and flight software for NASA's Space Launch System rocket. Marshall's System Integration Lab conducts flight simulations of the avionics system -- including hardware, software and operating systems -- that will guide the launch vehicle, to see how the SLS will perform during launch. Also, Dream Chaser agreement expanded, ISS crew returns safely, Senate Youth Program, More high marks for Morpheus, Asteroid Data Hunter challenge, SXSW Interactive and more!
JPL/NASA: Cassini: Coming Attractions at Saturn
What incredible things will the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn see and do over the next few years? Here's a preview.
Space.com: 'Cosmos' Honored In Space With Experiment | Video
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the host of the re-envisioned show, introduces a zero-gravity demonstration of Newton's third law of motion. Expedition 38's Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata prove the law aboard the International Space Station.
Penn State: WISE Satellite finds no evidence for Planet X in survey of the sky
March 7, 2014
After searching hundreds of millions of objects across the sky, NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly called "Planet X," according to published scientific papers including a new study in The Astrophysical Journal authored by Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University. "The outer solar system probably does not contain a large gas-giant planet, or a small companion star," said Luhman, who is an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State.
Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of a large, but unseen, celestial body suspected to exist somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. In addition to "Planet X," the body had other nicknames, including "Nemesis" and "Tyche." Luhman's recent study, which involved an examination of WISE data covering the entire sky in infrared light, found that no object the size of Saturn or larger exists out to a distance of 10,000 astronomical units (au), and no object larger than Jupiter exists out to 26,000 au. One astronomical unit equals 93 million miles. Earth's distance from the Sun is 1 au, and Pluto's is about 40 au.
But searches of the WISE data are not coming up empty. They reveal several thousand new stars and cool bodies called brown dwarfs that are in our Sun's "backyard" but outside our solar system. "Neighboring star systems that have been hiding in plain sight just jump out in the WISE data," said Ned Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles, the principal investigator of the WISE mission.
University of Massachusetts: UMass Amherst Sunwheel and Sky-Watching Events Mark the Spring Equinox on March 20
March 12, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – The public is invited to witness sunrise and sunset associated with the spring equinox among the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel on Thursday, March 20 at 6:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. These Sunwheel events mark the astronomical change of seasons when days and nights are nearly equal in length.
At the gatherings, which have attracted more than 10,000 visitors over the past 17 years, local Sunwheel enthusiasts Michelle and Andy Morris-Friedman will discuss the astronomical cause of the sun’s changing position during the hour-long gatherings. They will also explain the seasonal positions of Earth, the sun and moon, phases of the moon, building the Sunwheel, and answer questions about astronomy.
The exact time of the vernal equinox this year is 12:57 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This ushers in the beginning of spring and is also the day the sun rises into the sky to be visible for six months as seen from the North Pole, and the day it sets for six months as seen from the South Pole.
University of Alabama at Birmingham: New study of proteins in space could yield better understanding, new drug development, in addition to future scientists
Written by Nicole Wyatt
March 07, 2014
Innovative methods of drug discovery do not always take place in an academic laboratory. They may start there, but they can also happen in orbit aboard the International Space Station, as protein crystallization research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham is about to demonstrate once again.
ISSrecent s“The human body contains many proteins known to be involved in a number of diseases,” said Lawrence DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering. “Understanding the atomic structure and function of a protein allows scientists to begin development on compounds that can interact with the protein and subsequently regulate its function.”
In order to determine the structure of a protein, the researcher must experiment with solutions that allow the protein to form crystals. Research has shown that many proteins flown in space demonstrated the propensity to grow crystals with an increased size and quality compared to crystals grown in a lab on Earth.
University of Florida: UF/IFAS scientists to conduct experiment on plants in space
March 11th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida scientists will go to Kennedy Space Center March 16 30 for the launch of the SpaceX-3 Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, to send up and then monitor an experiment designed to help them understand biological functions in space.
These experiments are important queries into the concepts of where life can exist in the universe and what it takes to survive in space for longer periods of time.
After turning their samples over to SpaceX for launch, the researchers will travel to Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to remotely operate the Light Microscopy Module – an ISS research facility that allows scientists to conduct their experiments telemetrically from the ground.
Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, faculty members in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ horticultural sciences department, will explore how spaceflight affects cells by examining how plants grow without gravity.
Texas A&M: Aerosols Appear To Weaken Hurricanes
March 9, 2014
Aerosols in the atmosphere produced from human activities do indeed directly affect a hurricane or tropical cyclone, but not in a way many scientists had previously believed – in fact, they tend to weaken such storms, according to a new study that includes a team of Texas A&M University researchers.
Renyi Zhang, University Distinguished Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, and colleagues Yuan Wang, Keun-Hee Lee, Yun Lin and Misty Levy have had their work published in the current issue of Nature Climate Change.
The team examined how anthropogenic aerosols – those produced from human activities, such as from factories, power plants, car and airplane emissions and other forms – play a role in the development of hurricanes. The team used a complex computer model and data obtained from Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 and produced catastrophic damage.
The researchers found that aerosols tend to weaken the development of hurricanes (tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean) or typhoons (those formed in the Pacific). They also found that aerosols tend to cause a hurricane to fall apart earlier and wind speeds are lower than storms where anthropogenic aerosols are not present.
University of Pittsburgh: Excessive Deer Populations Hurt Native Plant Biodiversity, Pitt-Led Study Says
“When people walk in the woods where deer are overabundant, they don’t realize what’s missing”
March 10, 2014
PITTSBURGH—Too much garlic mustard in your neighborhood forest? Actually, the problem may be too many deer.
A research team led by Susan Kalisz, professor of evolutionary ecology in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Biological Sciences, published a paper online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that takes a long view on why invasive garlic mustard plants thrive to the detriment of native species.
The study, initiated in 2003 at the Trillium Trail Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel, Pa., concludes that an overpopulation of deer (density of deer in the United States is about four to 10 times what it was prior to European settlement of North America) is the primary reason garlic mustard is crowding out native plants, such as trillium, which are preferred food for wild deer.
University of Massachusetts: Urban Bird, Plant Species More Diverse Worldwide than Expected
UMass Amherst Ecologist Co-Leads Global Survey of Urban Birds and Plants
March 11, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. - The largest analysis to date of the effect of urbanization on bird and plant species diversity worldwide confirms that while human influences such as land cover are more important drivers of species diversity in cities than geography or climate, many cities retain high numbers of native species and are far from barren environments.
Urban ecologist Paige Warren of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, co-leader of a 24-member research working group at the University of California Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), and colleagues reported their findings recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
"We were able to build the largest database to date from the largest number of cities, more than 140 on every continent except Antarctica," Warren says. "So it's a more global survey than past studies, which have focused mainly on North America and Europe. For the first time, we were able to include cities in South America, in the tropics and in developing countries. This gives us more confidence in our generalizations about what is going on."
"Looking at what drives the number of species found, we see that human factors are more influential than region or where the city is located, for example," she adds. The researchers wrote, "Not surprisingly, greater proportions of intact vegetation in cities, as found in older cities, preserve plant species. These results highlight the importance of including remnant vegetation and restoring natural areas in the design of cities."
Texas A&M: Veterinary Profs Hope To Stop Disturbing Quail Decline
March 12, 2014
The iconic bobwhite quail, a favorite among hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike throughout the United States, has literally flown the coop – its numbers have been decreasing alarmingly for decades, but a groundbreaking project led by a team of Texas A&M University researchers could prove to be a big move toward understanding historic and future bobwhite population trends.
Dr. Chris Seabury and research associates (Yvette Halley and Eric Bhattarai), along with members of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center (Drs. Ian Tizard, Donald Brightsmith) at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have completed the first-ever draft genome assembly for a wild bobwhite quail named Pattie-Marie, and their work has been published in the current issue of the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
The project, which took two years to complete, also involved colleagues from the University of Missouri (Drs. Jerry Taylor and Jared Decker), Texas A&M AgriLife Research (Drs. Charles Johnson and Dale Rollins), Texas A&M’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences (Dr. Markus Peterson), and two private-industry scientists (Dr. Scot E. Dowd and Paul M. Seabury).
University of Alabama at Birmingham: Debunking water myths: weight loss, calorie burn and more
Written by Nicole Wyatt
March 12, 2014
Drinking a lot of water is often advised to those who are trying to lose weight, but a nutrition expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says it is not the magic bullet to weight loss.
“There is very little evidence that drinking water promotes weight loss; it is one of those self-perpetuating myths,” said Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition sciences. “I’m not saying drinking water isn’t good; but only one study showed people who drank more water burned a few extra calories, and it was only a couple of extra calories a day.”
Kitchin says another water myth is the consumption rule: eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
“Yes, people do need to get fluids; but it does not have to be water,” Kitchin said. “There’s no evidence that it melts away fat or makes you feel fuller, so if you don’t like water it’s OK.”
Men's Health: What's Really Making Us Fat?
Ever notice that sometimes the blubber won't budge no matter how many reps you add or calories you subtract? Or maybe other forces are at work—forces that are invisibly undermining your best efforts to leave that last 20 pounds in the past
By Jim Thornton, Photographs by Peter Hapak
March 10, 2014
Even though I'm an identical twin, I've outweighed my brother John from the moment we emerged by caesarian section. I was a 6-pound little piggy, whereas John was the 4-pound, 4-ounce victim of my embryonic gluttony (or so the family joke/legend has forever maintained).
In the decades since our birth, I have regularly climbed into "overweight" BMI territory and struggled to escape. Staying lean has been as difficult for me as it is effortless for John—this despite lifelong eating and exercise patterns that strike our friends as spooky in their similarity. To this day at family gatherings, we match each other bite for bite—and, just as in boyhood, we still fight over the last pork chop on the platter. Same behavior, same DNA: What's left to account for such divergent weights?
My only consolation is that whatever's going on, apparently I'm not alone. In recent years, scientists have observed an equally mysterious increase in girth around the globe. "Obesity seems to have risen in virtually every country where detailed data is available," says David B. Allison, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This even includes areas in the world like rural China, where stereotypically American fat factors—from junk food to video games—have yet to infiltrate peoples' lives.
University of Florida: Vitamin supplements may prevent drug-induced hearing loss, UF researchers say
March 13th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The drug gentamicin can provide effective treatment for people with bacterial infections that are resistant to other antibiotics, but this medication can cause a serious side effect, too: hearing loss.
Now, University of Florida researchers have discovered that a dietary supplement shows promise for protecting against drug-induced hearing loss when taken during gentamicin treatment. The findings of this study in rodents appear online ahead of print in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.
Gentamicin belongs to a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides. They are used to treat infections that are resistant to other antibiotics, including penicillin or amoxicillin. Aminoglycosides are prescribed in the U.S. for conditions such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis or for frequent lung infections experienced by patients with cystic fibrosis.
University of Illinois: Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new technique to fight crop insect pests may affect different insect populations differently, researchers report. They analyzed RNA interference (RNAi), a method that uses genetic material to “silence” specific genes – in this case genes known to give insect pests an advantage. The researchers found that western corn rootworm beetles that are already resistant to crop rotation are in some cases also less vulnerable to RNAi.
The study is reported in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology.
“Our results indicate that the effectiveness of RNAi treatments could potentially vary among field populations depending on their genetic and physiological backgrounds,” the researchers wrote.
University of Illinois-Chicago: Researchers identify risk factors for little-known lung infection
March 14, 2014
Severe and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by a group of bacteria in the same family as those that cause tuberculosis is much more common than previously thought, with Caucasians 55 and older at greatest risk, report researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.
The study is published online March 14 in PLOS ONE.
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) include more than 150 types of bacteria, found in water and soil, that can infect the lungs when inhaled. Unlike tuberculosis, NTM is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person. The infection is treatable, but antibiotic therapy is expensive and can take up to two years.
Rates of infection have climbed significantly since the 1980s. But while researchers suspect that deaths caused by NTM have also risen, the mortality rate and associated risk factors have remained unknown.
University of Pittsburgh: Turing’s Theory of Morphogenesis Validated 60 Years After His Death
Pitt mathematics and biology professor G. Bard Ermentrout part of team showing how identical cells differentiate
March 12, 2014
PITTSBURGH—British mathematician Alan Turing’s accomplishments in computer science are well known—he’s the man who cracked the German Enigma code, expediting the Allies’ victory in World War II. He also had a tremendous impact on biology and chemistry. In his only paper in biology, Turing proposed a theory of morphogenesis, or how identical copies of a single cell differentiate, for example, into an organism with arms and legs, a head and tail.
Now, 60 years after Turing’s death, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Brandeis University have provided the first experimental evidence that validates Turing’s theory in cell-like structures.
Turing, in 1952, was the first to offer an explanation of morphogenesis through chemistry. He theorized that identical biological cells differentiate and change shape through a process called intercellular reaction-diffusion. In this model, chemicals react with each other and diffuse across space—say between cells in an embryo. These chemical reactions are managed by the interaction of inhibitory and excitatory agents. When this interaction plays out across an embryo, it creates patterns of chemically different cells. Turing predicted six different patterns could arise from this model.
University of Massachusetts: Several FDA-Approved Anti-Cancer Drugs Induce Stem Cell Tumors, Perhaps Thwarting Therapy
Troubling side effect seen by UMass Amherst and Harvard team
March 10, 2014
AMHERST, Mass.– Using a new approach to systematically test chemotherapy drugs in an unusual animal model, a research team led by University of Massachusetts Amherst molecular biologist Michele Markstein, with Norbert Perrimon at Harvard Medical School, report that several have a serious side effect: Inducing hyper proliferation in stem cells that could lead to tumor recurrence.
Markstein says, “We discovered that several chemotherapeutics that stop fast growing tumors have the opposite effect on stem cells in the same animal, causing them to divide too rapidly. This was a surprise, because it showed that the same drug could have opposite actions on cells in the same animal: Suppressing tumor growth on one cell population while initiating growth in another. Not only is the finding of clinical interest, but with this study we used an emerging new non-traditional tool for assessing drugs using stem cells in the fruit fly gut.”
She adds, “We did these experiments in the fly because Drosophila stem cells, in the intestine, are very much like the stem cells in our intestine, and it’s a lot easier to do experiments in flies than humans or even mice.” Their paper appears in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Texas A&M: It’s all in the family: Preventing pediatric type 2 diabetes starts at home
by Lindsey Hendrix
March 10, 2014
“We will be the first generation to bury our children and grandchildren from complications of type 2 diabetes,” said Hermelinda Basurto, RN with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center (CBHEC) diabetes education program in Corpus Christi, Texas as she reflected on how shocking it was when a pediatric endocrinologist told her this 10 years ago.
But this is no longer a prediction. Today’s obituaries cite complications from type 2 diabetes as the cause of death for people as young as 23.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (previously known as adult-onset diabetes) among children and adolescents in the U.S. has increased rapidly in the last two decades and is a growing problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The younger a person is when he or she develops diabetes, the more likely they are to suffer serious problems with their kidneys, heart and eyes later in life.
Texas Tech: Texas Tech Scientist Raises Concern of Using Beta Agonists in Beef Cattle
The challenge is the drug aids efficiency but raises incidences of death.
Written by Leslie Cranford
March 13, 2014
Use of certain animal drugs known as beta agonists in cattle production has received considerable national attention.
A Texas Tech University veterinary epidemiologist has found that although there are significant societal benefits to the practice, an increase in death loss of cattle raises questions about welfare implications of its use.
In a peer-reviewed article published today (March 12) in PLOS ONE, Guy Loneragan, professor of food safety and public health in Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, adds to this ongoing national dialogue.
University of Florida: Stressful experiences have big, immediate effects on children’s health
March 12th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Science has shown that children who experience stressful events are more likely to face poor health outcomes as adults, but new research shows the effects may show up much sooner — in fact, almost immediately.
Researchers at the University of Florida discovered that when children experience three or more stressful events, they are six times more likely to suffer from a mental, physical or learning disorder than children who didn’t face these traumatic experiences, said Melissa Bright, a research coordinator for the UF Institute of Child Health Policy, or ICHP. Bright will present her findings at the American Psychosomatic Society’s annual meeting today (March 12) in San Francisco.
“The kids who have the highest number of adverse experiences have the highest likelihood of having multiple conditions,” Bright said. “It is not one poor health outcome; it is a whole slew of poor outcomes across the board.”
Florida State University: Hungry for 'Likes,' Facebook used linked to eating disorder risk
Researcher Pamela Keel finds social media site contributes to concerns about weight, shape, and increases anxiety among college women
By Jill Elish
6 March 2014
Frequent Facebook users might be sharing more than party pictures, vacation videos and shameless selfies — they also share a greater risk of eating disorders, according to a new study led by Florida State University researchers.
Psychology Professor Pamela K. Keel studied 960 college women and found that more time on Facebook was associated with higher levels of disordered eating. Women who placed greater importance on receiving comments and "likes" on their status updates and were more likely to untag photos of themselves and compare their own photos to friends' posted photos reported the highest levels of disordered eating.
"Facebook provides a fun way to stay connected with friends, but it also presents women with a new medium through which they are confronted by a thin ideal that impacts their risk for eating disorders," Keel said.
The findings were outlined in a paper, "Do You 'Like' My Photo? Facebook Use Maintains Eating Disorder Risk," which was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Keel's co-authors are Annalise G. Mabe, a 2013 alumna who proposed the topic for her undergraduate honors thesis, and doctoral student K. Jean Forney, both of FSU.
Florida Atlantic University: FAU Neuroscientists Forge Path toward Understanding the Human Brain
Findings Identify Principles that May Shed Light on Diseases Such as Autism and Schizophrenia
BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 13, 2014) – Florida Atlantic University neuroscientist Emmanuelle Tognoli, Ph.D., and J.A. Scott Kelso, Ph.D., neuroscientist and eminent scholar in science, at the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at FAU, recently published research in the prestigious journal Neuron titled “The Metastable Brain.” The article indicates that metastable dynamics – a subtle blend of integration and segregation in the brain that occurs on multiple levels (cells, brain regions, networks) – underlies the real-time coordination necessary for the brain’s dynamic cognitive, behavioral and social functions.
“Metastability can be visualized in terms of a line; with too much segregation on the left end of the line and too much integration on the right end of the line leading to disorders. The brain functions best somewhere in the middle where there is a dynamic balance of segregation and integration,” said Tognoli. “If it is out of balance, it can lead to diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.”
This research is timely as federal funding in support of the B.R.A.I.N. Initiative was approved early this year. The initiative is intended to accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought.
University of Illinois-Chicago: New stroke research combines brain stimulation, gait training
March 13, 2014
A University of Illinois at Chicago researcher will test whether brain stimulation combined with gait training can improve patients’ ability to walk after a stroke, under a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“After a stroke, almost 60 percent of people are not able to walk independently in their community—and there are currently six million stroke survivors in the U. S.,” says Sangeetha Madhavan, assistant professor of physical therapy and director of UIC’s Brain Plasticity Lab. “Even when they can walk, they are often really slow and are not fast enough to cross a road safely before the pedestrian lights change.
“Improving their ability to walk would have an enormous impact on their quality of life.”
Penn State: Experiential avoidance increases PTSD risk following child maltreatment
By Jonathan McVerry
March 5, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Child abuse is a reliable predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder, but not all maltreated children suffer from it, according to Chad Shenk, assistant professor of human development and family studies, Penn State, who examined why some maltreated children develop PTSD and some do not.
Shenk and his research team found that adolescent girls who experienced maltreatment in the past year and were willing to talk about their painful experiences and their thoughts and emotions, were less likely to have PTSD symptoms one year later. Those who tried to avoid painful thoughts and emotions were significantly more likely to exhibit PTSD symptoms down the road. The researchers report their results in the current issue of Development and Psychopathology.
"Avoidance is something we all do," said Shenk. "Sometimes it is easier not to think about something. But when we rely on avoidance as a coping strategy…that is when there may be negative consequences."
Approximately 40 percent of maltreated children develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Shenk sought to identify the factors that kept the remaining 60 percent from experiencing the disorder.
Texas A&M: Baby blues or something more?
by Kendall Cherry
March 10, 2014
Ever heard of baby blues? It’s not the color you’re painting the nursery. More than 70 percent of women show symptoms of unexplained tearfulness, feelings of being let down, and a decreased appetite after delivering a baby.
“Women have a much higher chance of being admitted to a psychiatric ward after giving birth than any other time in life,” says Cody Bruce, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing in Round Rock.
With several years of professional experience in a clinical psychiatric ward, Bruce has witnessed these symptoms first hand. He has often seen patients experiencing baby blues and in various stages of postpartum depression, and explains several differences between the two.
“Baby blues symptoms typically only last one to two weeks after pregnancy,” said Bruce. “Postpartum depression is different, because women are at risk for up to 12 months after birth.”
annetteboardman is taking the week off.
University of Alabama: UA Student Wins NSF Dissertation Grant for Archaeological Investigation of Louisiana Salt Trade
Mar 13, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Paul Eubanks, a doctoral student in The University of Alabama’s anthropology department, has received an $18,000 Dissertation Improvement Grant by the National Science Foundation for a project that explores the history and impact of the salt trade in northwestern Louisiana during the 18th century.
Eubanks’ project, “Caddo Salt Production in Northwestern Louisiana,” focuses on highlighting the role that the Caddo Indian salt makers played in the development of Louisiana’s history in the post-Columbian world.
“What originally got me interested in the archaeology and history of northwestern Louisiana was salt,” Eubanks said. “Given its limited availability away from coastal areas, participating in the production and trade of salt at inland salt springs would have been a profitable venture for European traders and American Indians alike.”
LiveScience: Sponges May Have Breathed Life into Ancient Oceans
By Megan Gannon, News Editor
March 11, 2014 11:43am ET
You may owe your life to the lowly sea sponge.
Flourishing in extreme, deep-ocean environments hundreds of millions of years ago, sponges may have helped produce the oxygen requisite for the explosion of more complex life forms on Earth, a new study suggests.
"The effects we predict suggest that the first animals, far from being a passive response to rising atmospheric oxygen, were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago," study author Tim Lenton, a professor at the University of Exeter, said in a statement. "They created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very distant ancestors."
LiveScience: 450-Million-Year-Old Marine Creatures 'Babysat' Their Young
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 13, 2014 01:43pm ET
The oldest fossil evidence of animal "babysitting" now comes from 450-million-year-old rocks in New York.
Small marine animals called ostracods, a group of crustaceans that includes more than 20,000 species living today, were discovered buried with their eggs and young by a team led by researchers from the University of Leicester in Britain. The findings were published today (March 13) in the journal Current Biology.
"This is a very rare and exciting find from the fossil record," David Siveter, lead study author and a geologist at the University of Leicester, said in a statement. "Only a handful of examples are known where eggs are fossilized and associated with the parent. This discovery tells us that these ancient, tiny marine crustaceans took particular care of their brood in exactly the same way as their living relatives."
LiveScience: Mini Arctic T. Rex Relative Discovered
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer
March 13, 2014 02:06pm ET
A miniature cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex once roamed the Arctic, a new fossil discovery reveals.
The new tyrannosaur (Nanuqsaurus hoglundi) had a skull length of between 23 and 27 inches (60 to 70 centimeters) when full-grown. In comparison, an adult T. rex boasted a skull about 60 inches (150 cm) long — that's a whopping 5 feet (1.5 meters).
"The 'pygmy tyrannosaur' alone is really cool because it tells us something about what the environment was like in the ancient Arctic," study researcher Anthony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, said. "But what makes this discovery even more exciting is that Nanuqsaurus hoglundi also tells us about the biological richness of the ancient polar world during a time when the Earth was very warm compared to today."
LiveScience: Ancient Whale Fossils Reveal Early Origin of Echolocation
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
March 12, 2014 02:00pm ET
An ancient whale used sound beams to navigate and stalk prey 28 million years ago, an analysis of a new fossil suggests.
The new whale species, called Cotylocara macei, contains air pockets in the skull similar to those used by porpoises and dolphins to send out focused sound beams. The discovery pushes back the origins of the ability, called echolocation, to at least 32 million years ago, said study co-author Jonathan Geisler, an anatomist at the New York Institute of Technology.
"It suggest echolocation evolved very, very early in the history of the group that involved toothed whales," a group that includes sperm whales and killer whales, as well as dolphins and porpoises, Geisler said.
LiveScience: Secret to Ancient Sloths' Aquatic Lives Found
By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer
March 11, 2014 09:49pm ET
Millions of years ago, aquatic sloths roamed shallow waters off the coast of modern-day Chile and Peru. These now-extinct swimmers had highly dense bones that facilitated their transition from land to sea by helping them sink to seafloors to graze on vegetation, according to a new report.
Only two groups of sloths exist today, both of which live in trees and grow to be the size of small monkeys. But during the Miocene and Pliocene — about 25 million to 4 million years ago — a great diversity of sloths crawled the Earth, including giant sloths that grew to be the size of elephants, and slightly smaller ones that spent time underwater.
Fossil remains suggest these aquatic sloths originated on land and gradually transitioned to life underwater. A series of fossil beds along the coast of Peru contain remnants of five different species of extinct sloths that researchers have interpreted to be aquatic based on the structure of their bones. For example, the density of their bones is much higher than the density of terrestrial mammal bones, but similar to bones of aquatic mammals that graze on seafloor vegetation, such as manatees.
LiveScience: Rare Diamond Reveals Earth's Interior is All Wet
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 12, 2014 02:00pm ET
A battered diamond that survived a trip from "hell" confirms a long-held theory: Earth's mantle holds an ocean's worth of water.
"It's actually the confirmation that there is a very, very large amount of water that's trapped in a really distinct layer in the deep Earth," said Graham Pearson, lead study author and a geochemist at the University of Alberta in Canada. The findings were published today (March 12) in the journal Nature.
The worthless-looking diamond encloses a tiny piece of an olivine mineral called ringwoodite, and it's the first time the mineral has been found on Earth's surface in anything other than meteorites or laboratories. Ringwoodite only forms under extreme pressure, such as the crushing load about 320 miles (515 kilometers) deep in the mantle.
LiveScience: Tectonic Puzzle: Why West Africa Didn't Follow South America
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 11, 2014 10:02am ET
South America nearly carried off Northwest Africa when the world's last supercontinent fell apart 130 million years ago. Now, a new model helps explain why the Sahara settled east of the Atlantic instead of sailing off with South America — it's all about the angles.
Back before the Atlantic Ocean formed, Africa and South America nestled together in a massive supercontinent called Gondwana. When this landmass started to split, gashes in Earth's crust called rifts opened up along pre-existing weaknesses.
One of these gashes, called the West Africa Rift System, started to tear apart the future Sahara desert. Two more rifts formed along the future boundaries of South America and Africa. Imagine three rift zones, two lined up essentially north-south and one pointing east-west. These alignments are key to explaining why the continents broke apart the way they did, according to a study published March 6 in the journal Geology.
University of Alabama: UA-affiliated Company Finalist in Clean Energy Business Contest
Mar 14, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A start-up company, e-Electricity, based on research at The University of Alabama, is a finalist in a clean energy competition supported by the United States Department of Energy.
The $100K ACC Clean Energy Challenge, a business plan competition supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, encourages students from universities in the Southeast to develop business plans for new clean energy companies. The competition whittled the companies to the “Elite Eight Plus Two,” or nine teams from schools within the Atlantic Coastal Athletic Conference and one at-large school from outside the ACC. The team from UA, e-Electricity, is the non-ACC winner.
The Elite Eight Plus Two will first compete to advance to the “Final Four” and then for a $100,000 grand prize at the $100K ACC Clean Energy Challenge Finals, held at the University of Maryland March 26. The $100,000 winner will move on to compete in the DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Finals in Washington, D.C., in the summer.
The UA-tied company is developing a patent-pending lithium ion smart battery management system that could increase battery energy utilization by 15 percent compared to current hybrid and electric vehicles. It’s based on research by Dr. Jaber Abu-Qahouq, UA associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Florida Atlantic University: FAU’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center Successfully Tests Research Turbine Offshore
BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 10, 2014) – Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) recently conducted the first at-sea tests of its ocean current research turbine offshore Fort Pierce. Two, one-hour tow tests provided researchers with new data on the turbine’s behavior for further design, development and validation.
“With this important milestone, we have collected the first in situ data of our turbine to compare with numerical models,” said Bill Baxley, chief engineer of FAU’s SNMREC. “Before, we only had computer-generated results, but now we can better simulate the performance of our turbine for future modifications.”
The Center has designed and built a small-scale research turbine at FAU that with a three-meter diameter rotor, has the capacity to generate up to 20 kW of power in a two-and-a-half-meter per second (five knot) flow, similar to conditions found in the Florida Current. This turbine is currently used by researchers to investigate technical and environmental challenges of harnessing ocean currents.
ISNS via LiveScience: The Physics Of Tuning Out
Sophie Bushwick, ISNS Contributor
March 14, 2014 08:59pm ET
In a crowded room, how do you focus on your companion's voice while ignoring the conversations going on around you? A digital model of the cochlea, the shell-shaped organ that serves as an interface between sound waves and the nervous system, suggests the ear begins filtering out background sounds before they even reach the brain.
Studying how the brain hones in on a single voice, a phenomenon known as the "cocktail party effect," can help unlock how the brain perceives sound. But it's not just about the brain. For several decades, researchers have suspected that other parts of the auditory system also play a big role.
For the brain to interpret sounds, it needs nerves to bring it signals from the ear. But it is not just a one-way street. The auditory system also includes so-called efferent nerves, which carry signals from the brain back to the ear. This creates a feedback loop within the auditory system, which may play a role in selective attention.
The Conversation via LiveScience: Using Lasers to Cut a Diamond Apart Atom by Atom
By Rich Mildren
March 06, 2014 12:02am ET
One of great challenges of the 21st century has been to develop ways to manipulate matter on smaller and smaller dimensions.
As the great physicist Richard Feynman noted in his famous 1959 lecture, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom”, and this adage is currently playing out with unprecedented vigour.
Nanomachines, quantum computing components and ultrafast electronics are all important areas that are benefiting from this extreme push for engineering on the ultra-nanoscale.
Science Crime Scenes
Temple University: Temple student exposes alleged spy activities in U.S. Senate
March 12, 2014
A senior journalism student has broken a major, national news story she believes exposes an example of government officials operating secretly, away from the accountability of the public eye.
Ali Watkins, 22, of Fleetwood, Pa., co-wrote a March 4 article for McClatchy DC News that details an apparent feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over a congressional report on the CIA’s “secret detention and interrogation program.” The article cites sources who say the CIA monitored computers Senate aides used to prepare the report.
That story (and several more to come) was the result of tips Watkins received from unnamed sources with whom she has developed trusting relationships since she began reporting for McClatchy’s Washington bureau as an intern in May 2013. Watkins currently freelances for the bureau and hopes to work as a reporter in Washington, D.C., after graduating from the School of Media and Communication in May.
Temple University: The burglary that exposed illegal surveillance by the FBI
March 12, 2014
Temple’s John Raines, emeritus professor of religion, has been all over the national news lately. The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Public Radio, NBCNews and more have all covered the story of the burglars—of which Raines and his wife Bonnie were two—who broke into an FBI office nearly 43 years ago and made off with numerous documents.
The stolen documents, mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters and government officials, revealed details about illegal surveillance and harassment techniques employed by the FBI against antiwar protesters and political dissenters.
“We knew the heavy-handed methods the FBI was using, but we had no documentation. That’s what we were trying to get,” Raines said.
The history of that episode, and the revelations the stolen documents helped expose, are covered in a new book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, by Washington Post reporter Betty Metzger.
University of Alabama at Birmingham: UAB study aims high-tech mapping at violence in Mexico
Written by Marie Sutton
March 12, 2014
Chris Kyle, Ph.D., a University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor of anthropology has been awarded a $40,000 research grant from The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. The foundation sponsors scholarly research on problems of violence, aggression and dominance.
The award will partially fund a yearlong sabbatical during which Kyle will write a book on the spatial analysis of criminal violence in Guerrero, Mexico.
Kyle’s research examines violent crime in a state that, although the size of West Virginia, has seen more than 11,000 homicides since 2007. As part of his analysis, he has created and maintains a database of homicides within the area. Using GIS mapping software, he is able to plot events on a map and to analyze spatial and temporal patterns in the incidence of violent crimes. This is among the first and most ambitious attempts to understand varying ways organized criminal violence in contemporary Mexico is embedded in the specific social settings in which it occurs, Kyle says.
Texas A&M: AgriLife Extension expert: Consumers can increase vigilance on identity theft
FTC report shows U.S. consumers lost $1.6 billion-plus to fraud in 2013
March 10, 2014
COLLEGE STATION – Identity theft continues to top the list of consumer complaints, according to a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission.
The report noted that American consumers lost over $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013, based on more than 2 million complaints reported in the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2013. Of these complaints, 14 percent were identity theft-related.
Complaints against debt collectors, banks and lenders, imposter scams, and telephone and mobile services rounded out the report’s top five consumer complaint categories.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
N.Y. Times: In Alabama, College Students Take On Challenge of Health Insurance Sign-Up
By MICHAEL WINERIP
MARCH 12, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Students at the University of Alabama Honors College here are encouraged to do volunteer work in the community and on campus.
For Marlan Golden, a senior, that has included being a Big Brother; running an education project for local Latinos; serving as president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity; and, most recently, signing up people for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
For that last one, Mr. Golden, 21, has not had to leave the fraternity house. He and several other student volunteers have been spending recent afternoons signing up the kitchen help and housekeepers of Alpha Tau Omega, as well as those at other campus fraternities and sororities.
University of Illinois-Chicago: Poison centers benefit patients, reduce medical costs, study finds
Sherri McGinnis González
March 10, 2014
Patients who received help from a poison center had shorter hospital stays and lower hospital charges among those who are the most expensive to treat, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.
Poison centers provide 24-hour assistance year round to the public and to medical professionals. While studies show that poison centers reduce system-wide costs, their impact on patient outcomes at the hospital level has not been clear, the study’s authors report.
The researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of inpatients treated in Illinois hospitals in 2010. They linked data from the Illinois Poison Center to medical record data from the Illinois Hospital Association and controlled for patient- and facility-level variables.
Medical Economics: Medicare to cut payments to physicians, while medical schools get boost in Obama’s 2015 budget
Some organizations are critical of Obama’s cuts to teaching hospitals for doctor training and complex care
By: Donna Marbury
Publish date: MAR 05, 2014
President Barack Obama is proposing increased funding toward medical school programs for internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine in his 2015 budget proposal.
In total, the funding would add $5.23 billion over 10 years to train primary care residents in underserved areas. The program aims to increase the primary care workforce by 13,000 doctors.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a statement requesting that Congress cooperate with Obama in order to decrease the growing need for primary care physicians in the United States.
University of Illinois-Chicago: Medication spending may rise 5 percent this year
March 5, 2014
Total spending on prescription medications has been declining for several years, but that trend is expected to reverse and rise 3 to 5 percent for 2014, according to a new report by a team led by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomic Research.
The report reviews recent changes in drug costs; identifies factors likely to influence future prescription expenditures; and projects drug spending for this year.
It will be published in the March 15 edition of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.
University of Houston: When Big Isn’t Better: How the Flu Bug Bit Google
UH Researcher says ‘Google Flu Trend’ Shows Where ‘Big Data’ Analysis Can Go Wrong
By Marisa Ramirez 713-743-8152
March 13, 2014
Numbers and data can be critical tools in bringing complex issues into a crisp focus. The understanding of diseases, for example, benefits from algorithms that help monitor their spread. But without context, a number may just be a number, or worse, a misleading number.
“The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis” is published in the journal Science and was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Specifically, the authors examine Google’s data-aggregating tool Google Flu Trend (GFT), which was designed to provide real-time monitoring of flu cases around the world based on Google searches that matched terms for flu-related activity.
“Google Flu Trend is an amazing piece of engineering and a very useful tool, but it also illustrates where ‘big data’ analysis can go wrong,” said Ryan Kennedy, University of Houston political science professor. He and co-researchers David Lazer (Northeastern University/Harvard University), Alex Vespignani (Northeastern University) and Gary King (Harvard University) detail new research about the problematic use of big data from aggregators such as Google.
Florida International University: FIU to lead insurance industry in solving the wind vs. flood issue
Posted by Marlen Mursuli
03/11/2014 at 9:44 am
Wind and water can have a devastating impact on property. Yet, as Hurricane Sandy made it clear in 2012, separate insurance systems for wind and flood damage make the task of sorting out the damage caused by a storm a highly cumbersome process.
Building on the success of the existing Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model and supported by an initial grant of $1.5 million from the state of Florida, a team of highly-qualified experts in meteorology, engineering, coastal science and hydrology, computer science, statistics, actuarial sciences, insurance and finance have embarked on the first public effort to bring wind, storm surge, and rain flood under one cohesive umbrella.
Northern Illinois University: NIU to boost secondary science, math education
New IBHE-approved center aims to grow pipeline of college students who plan to teach, offer professional development to current teachers
March 5, 2014
NIU this semester is launching a new Center for Secondary Science and Mathematics Education, aimed at strengthening the university’s support of science and mathematics education throughout the region.
The Illinois Board of Higher Education recently approved center status for a duration of five years, after which it could become permanent. The center will be housed in Faraday Hall.
NIU already is consistently in the Top 10 universities in the nation in terms of producing graduates who become secondary math teachers. The university typically averages more than 30 such graduates a year, and because of the program’s strong licensure requirements, those graduates land jobs nationwide, said Bonnie Kersten, coordinator of teacher licensure in the mathematics department.
Science Writing and Reporting
Al.com: 'Positive' author and UAB AIDs researcher Michael Saag calls U.S. healthcare system 'messed up' (photos)
By Jesse Chambers
March 12, 2014 at 10:38 AM, updated March 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The healthcare delivery system in the United States is -- to put it simply -- "messed up," according to Dr. Michael Saag, a world-renowned AIDs researcher at UAB.
And Saag has now authored a book -- his first -- that he hopes can help spark a discussion about how to improve that system.
Saag appeared at Alabama Booksmith in Homewood on Tuesday to sign copies of his memoir, entitled "Positive: One Doctor's Personal Encounters with Death, Life and the U.S. Healthcare System."
Southern Illinois University: SIU alumus to discuss marketing the moon
by Christi Mathis
March 14, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Richard Jurek, a two-degree Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus and space artifact collector, returns in early April to discuss the marketing behind the Apollo program.
Jurek, a marketing and public relations executive, will talk at 5 p.m. on April 2 at Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium. He will discuss “Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program,” a book Jurek co-authored with David Meerman Scott. The MIT Press is publishing the book that explores how astronauts, rocket scientists, defense contractors, space enthusiasts and even the flavored-drink mix Tang played roles in one of the most successful marketing and public relations campaigns in history.
The book is already set for a second printing due to pre-release sales and Jurek’s presentation will essentially serve as the launch event for the book.
Science is Cool
University of Central Florida: Public Invited to View UCF Student Art Inspired by Science
A unique showcase featuring scientific research as it has been interpreted by student artists will be open to the public from March 27 through April 4.
The UCFSTEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) exhibit presents paintings, posters, prints, photographs and 3D artworks created by UCF fine arts students in response to presentations on research by UCF scientists and their students.