Category Archives: Science

The Blue Brain Project and EVIE: The Development of AI

If you watch YouTube, you may know of a YouTuber by the stage name of KSI. He made a video on Evie and his discussion with the artificial intelligence or AI on the computer.

He asked Evie about 9-11 and Evie’s response was very distasteful. If you want to watch the video, you can look it up, but Evie is not a true AI. Evie’s responses are developed by the questions and answers of the people that ask them. The developers never intended for Evie to be “racist” as KSI claimed. He was actually using the system the wrong way. It’s up to us to produce clean content on Evie so people won’t have experiences like this.

Photo from gaggio.blogspirit.com
Photo from gaggio.blogspirit.com

Evie is no Blue Brain Project, a project started in 2005 by Swiss scientists. The aim of the project is to simulate the human mind by using AI. Currently, the Blue Brain is at a level of a rat brain. There are plans for the Blue Brain to hit human brain levels in 2023. However, there is the risk of the AI learning its own language. Earlier this year, Facebook had to “tweak” their models after the chatbots were making a deal in their own language. This language was unknown and still is to some of the smartest people in the world. Facebook was trying to train their “dialog agents” to negotiate. Well, it looks like they found something that will be groundbreaking in the AI world.

However, where the Facebook AI is concerned, the system was never smart, and in reality, it was pretty dumb. The AI learning its own language doesn’t mean anything; it still can’t match the level of a human plus the language was like this: “iii.” Nothing important to the scientific community. The Blue Brain Project reaching the brain level of a human will be a very important accomplishment to those Swiss Scientists. By then, the advancement of the project will be over and studying gene expression will begin. Maybe someone else will use the legacy of the project to develop an AI that is smarter than humans.

To Touch the Sun: NASA’s Unique Mission

NASA has had its fair share of “impossible” missions before, sending a man to the Moon, a probe to Mars, and heck, the two Voyagers are out of our solar system. However, this mission may be the impossible one.

The Parker Solar Probe before its launch; photo from socialunderground.com
The Parker Solar Probe at the APL in Maryland; photo from socialunderground.com

The Parker Solar Probe is set to launch next year as the first probe to make a visit to our nearest star and source of life as we know.  “The probe will face very brutal heat and radiation conditions as it will provide us with a close observation of our sun and ultimately a star,” NASA said in a statement. The probe recently was on display at John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland but before long, the spacecraft will be making its trip back to Florida where it will be launched towards its final destination: the sun.

An artist's rendering of the Parker Solar Probe near the sun; photo from www.iradehaber.com
An artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe near the sun; photo from www.iradehaber.com

The $1.6 billion mission will also aim to improve space weather forecasts that can impact life on Earth and astronauts in space. Nicola Fox, a project scientist for APL stated, “Parker Solar Probe is going to answer questions about solar physics that we have puzzled over for more than six decades.”

This mission was first considered back in 1958, before the Apollo missions and Mars Rovers, making it one of NASA’s oldest projects on the books. The main reason why it took so long before the mission was because of the sun’s intense heat.  The probe will be 3.9 million miles away from the sun’s surface but will be well within the orbit of Mercury. Even though, the probe won’t “touch the sun,” it will face temperatures on the upwards of 2,500 degrees F.  The probe will launch between the dates of July 31, 2018 and Aug. 19, 2018. The spacecraft will orbit around the sun a total of 24 times in a seven-year period with speeds of 500,000 miles. With speeds like that, you could travel up to California and back in one minute.

 

 

No, the World Didn’t End on Saturday

Yes, the world is going to end one day; we just don’t know when. That hasn’t stopped people from professing their belief that the world is going to end on a certain date.

We have been obsessed with “The End” of our bedtime stories of humanity. The latest nut-job is David Meade, a self-described specialist when it comes to the end of the world.  He predicted the Rapture, as foretold in the Book of Revelations, will begin on Saturday. (Wait a minute, it’s Sunday and we are still alive. What a shocker.)

David Meade – Photo from The Sun

There was no evidence supporting Meade’s claims of a Planet Nibiru or “Planet X” on a crash course towards Earth. That didn’t stop Meade from making claims. There are several ways in which the world can end. As long as someone can press the magical “red” button, nuclear war is the most likely way the world will end.

Of course, you might have a giant asteroid hit your house and car but the odds of that happening are 1-in-100 million in any given year. Those poor dinosaurs had a very bad year.

Then you might have climate change or global warming ruining your day, but it is doubtful this would lead to the end of the world. How about the over population of the world? Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has stated that we only have until 2100 before we would have to find a new home that is suitable for humans. In 2100, the population is estimated at over 11 billion, but most people alive today would be dead.

Then you have black holes that are never full after eating many stars and planets, but the odds of that happening are so small that we don’t have numbers for it. Another event that could happen is a supernova – the closest one to us is Betelgeuse, a part of the Orion constellation.

A more likely event is a global pandemic like the flu and smallpox killing off the majority of the planet and a biological weapon launched by terrorists and maybe another country. Maybe a super- volcano or robots take us out.

Finally, we have survived everything but one thing: Father Time. The sun runs out of fuel and expands to engulfing Mercury, Venus and possibly the  Earth. The planet will be so hot, no life will be possible. So enjoy life on Earth right now; we only got a billion more years to go.

Ash Tree Species near Extinction

Scientists say that years of attacks from beetles are pushing five of the most prominent species of ash tree to the brink of extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that tens of millions of trees in the U.S. and Canada have succumbed to the beetles.

The trees classified as “critically endangered” are the green, black, white, pumpkin, and blue ash. The Carolina Ash is also listed as “endangered.”

The beetle in question is an emerald ash borer which was introduced to North America accidentally in the late 1990’s from northeastern Asia. Government officials have tried to slow its spread with insecticides and biological control. These beetles can live for one to two years and before they reach maturity, they most likely have killed one ash tree.

A closeup of the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle – Photo from MPR News

Without any efforts, the ash tree would die out quickly and the cost to replace them would be in the billions. The beetle will eventually make its way to central Europe by 2031. The recent news of this has raised the questions of “specicide” or volunteer extinction of the ash borer in North America.

Whatever the answer is to the question, it’s going to be very costly and needs to be solved fast. If it is not solved, we are not going to have any ash trees left.

 

Opinion: Global Warming and A Note to Rush

This was the final straw; I have had it.  What Rush Limbaugh said about hurricane forecasts being “liberal conspiracies” so scientists can advance their “agenda” on global warming was completely erroneous.  Mr.  Limbaugh, hurricanes have been going on for thousands of years now and as matter of fact, the deadliest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean was in the 1700’s. That hurricane killed over 20,000 people. Now, you want to say hurricanes are conspiracies – they are a part of the earth’s natural weather cycle! What’s next, are blizzards completely fictional storms from Frosty the Snowman or do we take tornados too seriously; they ain’t that bad, they’re just spinning clouds? Even that wasn’t the low blow. You tucked your tail between your legs and “evacuated” from Florida.  Oh come on Rush, you said yourself that Irma was not even that bad of a storm; it was blown out of proportion to advance an agenda. Wait, you changed your mind; you want to live so you can keep spitting out the same old crap that you have been saying for years now.

A mugshot of Rush Limbaugh; photo from The Smoking Gun
A mugshot of Rush Limbaugh; photo from The Smoking Gun

Nothing is going to change the fact that Irma is not a normal hurricane; that’s why Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has tried to beat into everyone’s head that they need to evacuate from the vulnerable areas in Florida. Then what Limbaugh said most likely led to thousands of his “followers” staying put while he goes and hightails it out of Florida.  How can you believe in what you say, then retract it by leaving yourself? That’s just being a hypocrite, and I hate them; I hate to even use that word. That word is only used for special occasions when you catch someone in a lie. I’m not here to defend or support liberals but I’m not here on the conservatives’ side.

Rush, I hope you pass by this page and read this article; I will gladly give you the link to Science Magazine’s website and a history lesson in science on the studies of weather.  Most likely you will start talking bologna on that “talk show” of yours. Who knows, maybe you might say sorry to the people whose lives that you risked with your comments. I won’t be holding my breath on that one.

P.S. I hope you like the mugshot. I didn’t forget and neither should you.

 

New App That Finds Clean Bathrooms

I know, going to a public bathroom sucks. I hated going to a bathroom and seeing someone’s number two just because they were too lazy to flush the damn toilet. No more of that nonsense as we now have an app (Apple does at least; Android will have to wait until next month), that helps you find a clean bathroom. This, however, is only available in the San Francisco area; you will have to wait until next year for the app in New York.

The founder of Good2Go and CEO Fran Heller said in a statement, “We believe that technology can serve people’s everyday needs.”

The business model is highly attractive as people want to go in a nice, clean public bathroom if they need to go at some point. Stores will have to support the app which means they will pay the company to promote their bathrooms as user-friendly.

The main question people will be asking is why the app will cost $19.99 for monthly use and $2.99 for daily when bigger companies like Procter and Gamble run watered down versions for absolutely free. For a year’s use of Good2Go, you would be spending $240 just to use a clean bathroom and even then someone could be lying just to make their business look good.

I guess that’s the price for living in California. Maybe next time just use the bathroom with the unflushed crap in the toilet. At least it won’t cost you a dollar in the long run.

The brain connectivity of LSD and “ego dissolution”

When individuals take the psychedelic drug Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), they may feel as though the limits that isolate them from everything have disintegrated, as though they are connected with the rest of the world. A study has discovered a neural mechanism behind this occurrence, called “ego dissolution.”

According to the researchers, the study’s results, published April 13 in the journal Current Biology, suggest that further research on LSD and other psychedelic drugs could provide important insight into how the human brain works.

Ego dissolution is not a universally positive or negative experience, said Enzo Tagliazucchi. Tagliazucchi is  a neuroscientist at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam and co-author of the story. According to Tagliazucchi, depending on the experience of the trip and ego dissolution, it can be too overwhelming and lead to anxiety, panic and what is normally dubbed a “bad trip”.

Ego dissolution is at the core of the treatment of anxiety related to the fear of death in such patients. According to Tagliazucchi, for terminal-stage cancer patients, ego dissolution “can be a positive and transformative experience, leading to peace, acceptance, a new perspective on things.”

According to Tagliazucchi, the findings additionally propose that taking LSD may cause an improved sharing of data among various brain regions that reinforces a more powerful connection between an individual’s sense of self and their sense of everything else.

This is your brain on LSD. Graphic from Imperial College London.

In the study, the researchers examined the brains, through scanning, of 15 healthy individuals twice — once after they took a placebo, and once after the individuals took LSD.

The researchers discovered that, when the individuals were high on LSD, different regions of their brains had a stronger link to each other, when compared with the placebo’s effect on the individuals. The more connected these brain regions were in these individuals, the higher their sense of ego dissolution was.

According to the researchers, the results of the study suggest that individuals on LSD can experience ego dissolution because these brain regions become heavily interconnected.

According to Tagliazucchi, ego dissolution does not automatically occur every time someone takes LSD. The experience of this phenomenon may depend on the dose of the drug they take. When ego dissolution happens, it doesn’t last longer than the other effects of LSD, which typically last about 10 hours.

According to Tagliazucchi, he is planning to investigate how other psychedelic drugs modify consciousness by using neuroimaging and other methods.

Brain implant allows paralyzed man move his hands using his thoughts

After diving into a shallow wave at a beach and hitting the sandy bottom, Ian Burkhart severely injured his spinal cord and became paralyzed when he was only 19 years old. He lost the ability to use his legs and forearms due to where the injury occurred on his body.

According to a recent study, Burkhart, now 24 years old, has recovered his ability to move his wrist, hand and some of his fingers by using an electrical device that was implanted into his brain. The electrical device is connected to a sleeve of electrodes that he wears on his forearm.

Burkhart has recovered the functional movements by using the electrical device, said Chad Bouton. Bouton is the lead author of the study published April 13 in the journal Nature and the division leader, at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, of neurotechnology and analytics.

Ian Burkhart, first person to benefit from the neural bypass technology. Image from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/Batelle.

According to Bouton, in order for Burkhart to recover his individual finger movements, the researchers had to discover and decipher certain brain signals. Soon after, they had to evaluate the electrical impulse pattern required to release on his forearm.

The researchers and doctors embedded a device with microelectrodes into the part of the brain that controls movement, his motor cortex. When Burkhart wears the sleeve, he has the ability to move and control his arm using brain-computer-interface technology, to translate these signals into electrical pulses in an individual’s’ brain, by using a computer. The sleeve’s 130 electrodes emits electrical impulses to his muscles, which makes them contract.

In an individual who is not paralyzed, signals from the brain move down the spinal cord to nerves connected to muscles in the body, making those muscles move. In paralyzed individuals, because of spinal cord injury, these signals still happen in the brain, yet can’t be transmitted to muscles. To deliver the signals directly to Burkhart’s muscles, the microchip in his brain and the electrode sleeve bypass the injury.

Burkhart can now complete daily tasks with his hand, including the ability to swipe a credit card, pour water into a cup and play Guitar Hero, with the electrical device’s help.

Fundamentally, Burkhart has the ability to make these movements by “mastering his thoughts,” said Dr. Ali Rezai. Rezai is a neurosurgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where Burkhart was treated, and senior author of the study.

According to researchers, Burkhart’s capacity to move several of his fingers is a noteworthy discovery. They hope that one day this electrical device technology could help other individuals with paralysis, as well as individuals who, due to strokes or traumatic brain injuries, have lost movement.

A look into a tarantula’s sex life

Tarantulas, according to a 2013 review in the journal Arachnology, are the largest and longest living spiders in the world. Nelson Ferretti, a tarantula expert with the the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina and lead author of the review says there are nearly a thousand species alive today, and most mate in the spring and summer; although some species are known to mate only in the winter.

According to the study co-author Fernando Pérez-Miles, an entomologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, after male spiders are born and travel into the adult stage of their lives, they insert their two pedipalps or the small appendages near the front of their head with sperm. Although the insertion of the sperm is time and energy consuming, males can usually mate with multiple females with just one insertion..

During the mating season, “charged” males, or males who have gone through the insertion process, will leave the nest, so to speak, in order to find approachable females.  The male tarantulas will focus on the female’s pheromones, or chemical scents, though “it’s unclear if only receptive females produce male-attracting pheromones.” When a male discovers a “connection” or a female that has the appropriate pheromones, the male and female with mate.

Tarantula_Pair5
“Depending on the species, males may engage in a range of different moves, the most widespread being papal drumming and body vibrations.”

According to Ferretti, “depending on the species, males may engage in a range of different moves, the most widespread being papal drumming and body vibrations.”
If the female enjoys the feeling, she will respond by tapping her front legs, letting him know that she wants him, and to direct him toward her burrow. However, in other species, the female will move towards the male instead, leaving her burrow behind. When the time has come, the pair will come face-to-face, showing and elevating their bodies and front legs to each other.

In other species, the tradition is different. The male will initiate spasmodic beats on the female with his second pair of legs, which is thought to put the female at ease and relax her fangs. In most species, the males have specialized spurs that can clasp onto the female’s fangs which elevate them into the correct immobilizing positions and to prevent bites.

Once the pair are ready, the male will place his charged pedipalps into the female’s genital opening, one to five time. When he is finished, he will leave to find other mates, that is, if he’s “lucky enough to avoid getting eaten, which is common,” Ferretti says. However, this only occurs if the male attempts to mate with a female without courting her first, that is, entering her burrow too soon or doesn’t leave fast enough after mating. Although, luckily enough for the males, mating leaves the female immobile for a small amount of time, allowing the male to get away if necessary.

Instead of finding alien life, should we be hiding from it?

A recent study suggests a method for hiding from aliens. This study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, comes at a time when most papers and study are related to how to find alien life.

A great deal of our quest for Earth-like planets depends on transiting planets. Transiting planets travel in front of their host star in a manner in which the transit can be seen from our viewpoint. The travel of the planet in front of the host star makes the light from that star diminish or glimmer, and we can utilize that to determine a wide range of information about far off planets — including how sustainable they might be for life.

Should we hide from the aliens? Graphic from Andreas Rocha
Should we hide from the aliens? Graphic from Andreas Rocha

A few scientists have proposed that we ought to hope that Earth is a transiting planet from the viewpoint of another planet that contains intelligent life. At the end of the day, our best endeavor for discovering alien life may be trusting that aliens are utilizing similar techniques of planetary detection that we are, and that the movement of Earth in front of the sun is visible with their telescopes.

Graduate student Alex Teachey and Professor David Kipping, both from Columbia University in the City of New York, attempted to figure out how much laser light would be required to cover the diminishing or glimmering light brought about by the transit of Earth.

As indicated by their calculations, it would take about 10 constant hours of shining a 30 MW laser once every year to shield the transit signal in discernible light. Reproducing each wavelength of light released by the sun would require around 250 MW of power.

Teachey said in a statement that “Alternatively, we could cloak only the atmospheric signatures associated with biological activity, such as oxygen, which is achievable with a peak laser power of just 160 kW per transit. To another civilization, this should make the Earth appear as if life never took hold on our world.”

There’s still a major, interdisciplinary deliberation about whether we should try to contact alien life from other planets. This study will become one of many that detail whether or not we should be hiding from alien life, instead of if we should find it and try to communicate with them.

Neuroscientist pled guilty to 17 fraud-related charges

Scientific integrity suffered Thursday March 31 when an Australian neuroscientist was given a two-year suspended sentence after entering a plea of guilty to 17 fraud-related charges. The main counts that faced Bruce Murdoch were for an article that proclaimed an outstanding discovery in the treatment of Parkinson’s.

The judge’s conclusions were definitive. She articulated that there was no evidence, that Murdoch even directed the clinical trial on which his alleged discoveries were supported.

Murdoch produced forged consent forms for participants of his studies, one of which was deceased at the time the supposed study occurred. Additionally, Murdoch fraudulently took private and public research money for the fake study, that was distributed in the very respectable European Journal of Neurology in 2011.

The quantity of U.S. academic fraud cases in science have risen drastically since the beginning of the 20th century. In 2011, the journal Nature recorded the amount of retractions in the past decade and discovered they had elevated ten times as much. The journal noted that around 50 percent of the retractions were based on scientist misconduct, not based simply on errors.

The U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which conducts investigations for supposed misconduct involving National Institutes of Health funding, has been much more occupied recently. Throughout 2009 and 2011, ORI had identified merely three cases of misconduct which called for a course of action. Throughout 2012 and 2015, three cases increased to 36 cases that had a cause for action.

Although criminal cases against researches are very uncommon, they are climbing. Jail time is even more uncommon, but still occur. In July 2015, an ex-biomedical scientist at Iowa State University, Dong-Pyou Han, conceded and plead guilty to two felony charges of making false statements to acquire NIH research grants. Han was sentenced to over four years in prison.

Han confused to falsifying the outcomes of many vaccine experiments, some in which he spiked blood samples from rabbits with human HIV antibodies in order for the rabbits to seem to have built up an immunity to the virus.

Two years ago, ORI forced its own punishment against Han. In spite of the fact that it could have issued a funding ban for his entire lifetime, it just blocked Han from obtaining federal dollars for three years.

Ivan Oransky, the executive director of the Center for Scientific Integrity, which runs the blog Retraction Watch, that keeps an informal list of the most unfavorable offenders of scientific retractions, announced plans to ultimately track research misconduct.

New nicotine vaccine could help smokers quit

According to data collected by the American Cancer Society, 70 percent of smokers want to quit altogether, 7 percent actually succeed at quitting smoking their first time, and 3.5 percent quit smoking cold turkey. These statistics are already extremely unsettling. Even though 40 percent of smokers tried to quit in 2015, half of smokers will relapse into smoking while intoxicated with alcohol.

Graphic from http://rcnky.com/
50 percent of smokers will not succeed in quitting on their first try. Graphic from http://rcnky.com/

These statistics even come into play with individuals who are underage. According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of smokers began smoking before the age of 18, while 90 percent began smoking before the age of 21. 3,900 teens begin smoking each day, totaling 600,000 teens each year. What’s disturbing is that 11 percent of middle school students reported having smoked. That means 11 percent of pre-teens between the ages of 11 and 14.

A successful vaccine to assist individuals in quitting smoking for good has been difficult to discover. According to a report in ACS’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a new vaccine for quitting smoking has been designed.

Over half of smokers who want to quit will not succeed in quitting their first time. There are several ways to quit smoking available. Smokers can quit cold turkey, use behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, spray, and lozenges), and medicine like Zyban and Chantix. These tools are readily available, but aren’t always effective, and may even have undesirable side effects.

This new vaccine design would target the nicotine molecule directly. Two individuals participated in a clinical study of the vaccine which ultimately failed. However, the clinical study provided worthwhile pieces of information, that scientists could improve upon.

The trials indicated that the individuals who produced the most elevated amounts of anti-nicotine antibodies were more likely to refrain from smoking for more than six months. Kim D. Janda, Ph.D., and fellow researchers from The Scripps Research Institute wanted to expand on this discovery.

The team designed a new vaccine that could raise the amount of antibodies that could attach to nicotine molecules.

While testing in mice, they discovered that the vaccine deferred the effects of nicotine after injection within the initial 10 minute period. Additionally, they discovered that the mice treated with the vaccine had lower concentrations of nicotine in their brains, which is where nicotine has its effects. The team expressed that their future endeavors will concentrate on further perfecting the formula of the vaccine to prepare it for potential clinical studies.

Investigating Trump and the small hands, small penis myth

Marco Rubio, former Republican candidate, may have dropped out of the presidential race after losing to Donald Trump in the Florida Primary, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hilarious arguments and fights left behind to peruse. Some even point to the following scenario as an explanation for what went wrong in his candidacy.

Shortly before Super Tuesday, Marco Rubio decided to attempt to stump Donald Trump, by mocking his hair and spray tan, then criticizing the size of Trump’s hands. Trump,  the Republican front runner, reassured voters that there was no problem with the size of his hands, or any other part of his body. This has become one of the most famous debate moments thus far in this campaign.

Donald Trump has tiny hands. Graphic from Vocativ
Donald Trump has tiny hands. Graphic from Vocativ

Presidential hopeful and former presidential hopeful, were citing back to urban legend, that says that you can assume a man’s penis size after looking at his hands, feet, or by how tall he is.

If a man’s hands are small, so is the size of his penis. This isn’t the first time the size of Trump’s hands or his anatomy has been brought into the media. Ever since a 1988 Spy magazine article branded him a “short-fingered vulgarian”, Trump has been excessively sensitive about the size of his hands and penis.

Science hasn’t come to a consensus on the small matter, but there may be some truth to the small hands, small penis myth. However, the size of a man’s penis doesn’t come down to his hands, but down to a finger.

If a man’s ring finger is longer in relation to his index finger, there’s a possibility that his penis is a tad longer than an average penis. This is only a difference of centimeters.

For most researchers to determine this, they evaluated a man’s overall measurements. They assessed his height and weight, and additionally measured his fingers and his erect penis. One team of researchers even studied this theory in rats.

However, what might actually determine the length of an adult man’s penis relies on how much of the hormone androgen he was introduced to while in his mother’s womb.

To demonstrate this theory, scientists tested on rats. The proportions of their finger length resemble those of humans. Scientists first blocked a mother’s androgen level during the rat’s development cycle. When the rat became an adult, his penis size was smaller than the average penis size. Another study similar to the latter, found that the rats that are introduced to more androgen during the development cycle had ring fingers that were slightly longer than average.

According to Dr. Chad Ritenour, Professor of Urology at Emory School of Medicine at Emory University, “Men are very attached to their penises in more ways than one.”

Even presidential candidates vying for the White House, make their penises a momentous part of their platforms.

A new report links extreme weather to climate change

A new report called Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change written by the Committee on Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution links extreme weather to climate change. The report was pre-published recently and the final report will be available through the National Academies Press in spring 2016.

Working under Washington’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the researchers of climate from British and American universities laid out the reports findings Friday March 11 at a news conference.

The committee expresses that they have a strong belief that most events of extreme weather such as heat waves, heavy precipitation, and droughts are being affected or caused by climate change.

Could extreme weather such as hurricanes be caused by climate change? Graphic from Wikipedia
Could extreme weather such as hurricanes be caused by climate change? Graphic from Wikipedia

Prior to this report, scientists and researchers had a general consensus that the happenstance of extreme weather and climate change had no conclusive link.

The researchers gathered long-term data on extreme events which allowed them to outline how they were developing in severity as the impacts of climate change grew over time.

The committee members noted the heatwave in Russia that occurred in 2010, which prompted the nation’s most detrimental drought in about 40 years, and the loss of around 34,749 square miles of crops. They additionally pointed to the extreme rain in the United Kingdom that occurred in 2000, which led to the most damaging and widespread flooding since the 1940s.

According to researchers, they don’t quite have enough information to conclude that every event of extreme weather is due to climate change. However, as the research is expanded, they may be able to link wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, and tornados to climate change.

As these extreme weather events become more dangerous and more frequent, the repercussions will be taken out on the economy and individual’s lives.

In 2014, the World Meteorological Organization approximated that occurrences of extreme weather cost the human race over 2 trillion dollars and have killed over 2 million people, while devastating millions more.

The researchers hope that they can expand upon the reports findings through research in order for researchers and forecasters to eventually design better predictive models not just with respect to the understanding of climate, but with the conclusive understanding of the effect that climate change is having on Earth’s weather systems.

Ecstasy users may be unintentionally using “bath salts”

An American group of specialists is the first to examine whether ecstasy users are unknowingly or unintentionally taking either or both “bath salts” and other mind altering drugs

Ecstasy — also known as MDMA, is one of the most prevalent party drugs; it is approximated to be taken by at least 10 percent of young adults in the US.

The demand of ecstasy has surged in recent years ever since ecstasy became known as “Molly,” which is promoted as “pure” MDMA powder. Be that as it may, the ecstasy consumed is often far from unaltered or “pure”: it is frequently degraded with different substances, including synthetic cathinones, commonly known as “bath salts.”

According to Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, an associate of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), due to the rise in overdoses and poisonings related to ecstasy use, research needed to be made to see if users have been unintentionally or unknowingly using “bath salts”.

drugs
“Ecstasy — also known as MDMA, is one of the most prevalent party drugs.”

The specialists surveyed young adults outside of nightclubs and dance festivals about their use of ecstasy and other substances. The survey evaluated if participants had ever intentionally taken ecstasy, MDMA or “Molly.”

According to Dr. Palamar, the study asked the individuals involved in the study if they’d cut some of their hair, in order to test for substances like “bath salts”.

The specialists concentrated on the samples of hair taken from 48 participants who stated that they had used ecstasy. While 50 percent of the samples tested positive for MDMA, the other 50 percent tested positive for either or both “bath salts” and different substances that affect the brain.

“Ecstasy wasn’t always such a dangerous drug, but it is becoming increasingly risky because it has become so adulterated with new substances that users and the scientific community alike know very little about,” said Dr. Palamar.

According to Dr. Palamar, it’s safest to avoid using MDMA, however, test kits are available online to ensure that they what they will be taking is real, “pure” MDMA.

The study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Sexual violence alters the female brain

A new study in Scientific Reports found that prepubescent female rodents who mated with sexually experienced male rodents expressed reduced maternal behaviors necessary to care for offspring, could not absorb information as well, and had increased levels of anxiety caused by hormones.

Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz
Sexual violence alters the female brain, increases anxiety and impacts learning capabilities.  Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz

According to lead author Tracey Shors, this study is vital to understanding how sexual violence affects all living organisms, adding that it’s necessary “to know the consequences of this behavior in order for us to determine what we can do to help women learn to recover from sexual aggression and violence.”

Shors works in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences as a professor.

According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of women worldwide experience some kind of physical or sexual assault in their lifetime and young, prepubescent girls are much more likely to be victims of assault, attempted rape, or rape. Recent surveys show that as many as one in five female college students experience sexual violence while on campus.

Females who experience sexual violence are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, PTSD and other mood disorders. In spite of the indisputable relationship between mental health disorders in females and sexual trauma, very little is known about how violence affects the female brain. According to Shors, that’s due to the fact that there has not yet been an established laboratory animal model for researching the affects of sexual violence and behavior on brain function in females.

The Sexual Conspecific Aggressive Response (SCAR) model, developed by Shors and her team, sought to determine how stress associated with sexual violence affected female rodents.

Despite the fact that it’s normal for female rats to care for their offspring the females in this study that interacted with the adult male all through pubescence did not show as much maternal behavior as females that were not exposed to the adult male. Less generated brain cells were present in the females that did not learn to care for their offspring when contrasted with females that exhibited maternal behavior.

Although researchers don’t know if this type of sexual violence would have the same effects in humans, research has shown that sexual violence is one of the most likely causes of PTSD in females, which is linked with diminished brain functions related to learning and memory. The offspring of females who experienced sexual violence are at more serious danger for suffering traumatic experiences themselves as they age.

According to Shors, little is known about the brain mechanisms that affect the increase in depression and mood disorders among women who experience trauma from sexual violence, adding that along with these new methods, “we can find out how the female brain responds to aggression and how to help women learn to recover from sexual violence.”

Eliminating race from human genetic analysis

A set of researchers are asking their colleagues to step forward and discontinue the use of racial classes while researching and studying human genetics.

“It is time for biologists to find a better way,” concludes the opening section of a recently distributed paper in Science, “Taking Race Out of Human Genetics,” written by Drexel School of Public Health‘s Michael Yudell, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dorothy Roberts and Sarah Tishkoff, and the American Museum of Natural History’s Robert DeSalle.

Yudell and his co-authors point to evidence from phylogenetics and population genetics “that racial classifications do not makes sense in terms of genetics.” While making use of simple biological strategies, the co-authors contend that commonly described racial groups “lack clear-cut genetic boundaries.”

The race concept has no place in human genetics. Image from Genetic Literacy Project.
The race concept has no place in human genetics. Image from Genetic Literacy Project.

One clear hindrance with utilizing race as a differentiating element in contemporary biology and medicine is that “racial assumptions are not the biological guideposts some believe them to be,” the co-authors mentioned.

Moreover, they indicate how the ongoing utilization of race in genetic research has fueled racist ideals, so much so that leading biologists were pressured, in 2014, to refute claims about “the genetic basis of social differences between races.”

Additionally, it’s vital to not mistake ancestry for the race concept, the co-authors point out.

“Ancestry is a statement about an individual’s relationship to other individuals in their genealogical history; thus, it is a very personal understanding of one’s genomic heritage,” they said. “Race, on the other hand, is a pattern-based concept that has led scientists and laypersons alike to draw conclusions about hierarchical organization of humans.”

As such, the group of specialists believes that race has to be phased out from genetic studies and deliberate language such as “ancestry or population” used to describe the grouping for research.

Such an attempt would permit for less uncertainty over all research and additionally “send out an important message to scientists and the public alike: historical racial categories that are treated as natural and infused with notions of superiority and inferiority have no place in biology.”

Yudell, as a call to action, says that it’s “time that scientists find a way to resolve to improve the study of human diversity.”

A new way to treat depression

In a 2014 study, specialists at UCLA asked over 153,000 first year undergraduates to assess their general emotional health — and it was rated at the lowest level that UCLA has ever documented. Researchers found that nearly one in ten students said they frequently felt depressed.

A separate study by the American College Health Association discovered that more than fifty percent of colleges students have experienced “overwhelming anxiety” sometime over the past year. More than 30 percent of them said they have felt so depressed “that it was difficult to function.” Nearly 40 percent said they “felt things were hopeless.”

A new treatment for depression could significantly decrease its severity. Image from bkreader.com

Depression and anxiety with college students have been growing, and treatment of depression has been developing as well.

Analysts of a new study published in the most recent issue of Biological Psychiatry report effective decrease of depression symptoms in patients utilizing an innovative non-invasive method of vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS.

In spite of the increasing amount of neurostimulation approaches and medications available, leftover side effects may be both upsetting and incapacitating. Customary VNS is a neurostimulation procedure that has been utilized to diminish treatment-resistant symptoms of depression. Clinical trials proposed that it delivered relative advantage that developed over drawn out periods of time. Be that as it may, it was additionally expensive and required dangerous neurosurgery to embed the vagal nerve stimulators.

Drs. Peijing Rong and Jiliang Fang at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, working together with Jian Kong’s analysis group at Harvard Medical School, researched a new, altered type of VNS called transcutaneous VNS, which alternatively stimulates the vagus nerve through electrodes put into the ear.

Patients with major depressive disorder who volunteered for the study were either given transcutaneous VNS or placebo VNS and experienced a functional neuroimaging scan both before and after being treated for one month.

Contrasted with patients who were given placebo VNS, the patients who were given actual transcutaneous VNS displayed noteworthy improvement of their symptoms of depression. This change was linked with expanded functional connectivity amid the default mode system and precuneus and orbital prefrontal cortex, a critical system in the brain known that is changed in depression.

As claimed by Rong, this treatment can significantly downsize the asperity of depression and shows promise for use later on in the future.