Tag Archives: science

Why Scientific Literacy is Important

Imagine starting your average day. You wake up and look at what the weather forecast has to say about the outside world. You prepare yourself for the day to come, by taking a nice warm shower and using a scented bar of soap. You make yourself a large breakfast with eggs, bacon, pancakes, and a large cup of coffee. You may not have thought about it, but every action you took to begin the day involved science – whether it be the meteorologist telling you the weather by basing their predictions on patterns shown in the atmosphere, the thermodynamics used to heat up water to the perfect temperature for a shower, or the chemistry needed to make sure the pancakes came out as light and fluffy as possible.

To understand how these everyday tasks work, we need scientific literacy. What exactly is scientific literacy? Scientific literacy is described by the National Science Education Standards (1996)1 as “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” Now the next question is: why is this important? Why do we need to know how the world works? What is most important about scientific literacy is it gives one the ability to make informed decisions.

chemistry cookings
“You may not have thought about it, but every action you took to begin the day involved science – the chemistry needed to make sure the pancakes came out as light and fluffy as possible.” Photo from: www.martinezgazette.com

For example, having scientific literacy can range from making basic observations to becoming involved with local and global policies. These opportunities can change your life, as well as the lives of everyone around the globe. If you get involved with any sort of environmental committee, you can help decide the purity of water for your community. Scientific literacy can also hone your fact-checking ability. If a person tells you that men have more teeth than women, a way you can check that is by observing a group of men and a group of women and counting their teeth. This is what scientific literacy is about.

Not only will being more scientifically literate help us with knowing why things happen the way they do, it can also increase a person’s skill set. According to Let’s Talk Science (2017)2, “Doing science develops our ability to ask questions, collect information, organize and test our ideas, problem-solve and apply what we learn. Even more, science offers a powerful platform for building confidence, developing communication skills and making sense of the world around us – a world that is increasingly shaped by science and technology.” These skills, especially communication skills, shape our society and personal relations. Also taking into consideration that our world is changing because of the new technologies made every day, in order to take advantage of these technological advances, we must understand why we need them and how to use them. Though the significance of science in average routines may not be clearly visible, knowing about scientific processes will provide the skills needed to be an informed decision maker.

 

 

 

Citations

 

1 National Science Education Standards. (1996). Scientific Literacy. Retrieved February 04, 2017, from http://www.literacynet.org/science/scientificliteracy.html

 

2 Turnbull, M. (n.d.). Why is Science Literacy so Important? Retrieved February 04, 2017, from http://letstalkscience.ca/about-us/why-science.html

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.

The broken heart syndrome phenomenon

According to Time magazine, an immense amount of research has shown that a death or the loss of a person close to you can not only break your heart metaphorically, but it can also cause physical damage that can lead to serious heart problems.

A new study published by Dr. Simon Graff finds that people who experience a partner dying are a much higher risk for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, and the effects are life-long.

Having a broken heart is more than just a metaphor. Graphic from Pinterest
Having a broken heart is more than just a metaphor. Graphic from Pinterest

For many years, researchers have studied the phenomena of the broken heart syndrome, or stress cardiomyopathy. This occurs when a highly stressful event, such as the death of a spouse, results in a person feeling like they’re having a heart attack. The symptoms include the same ones that occur when having a heart attack: shortness of breath and chest pain.

When an emotional event happens, researches suspect a surge of stress hormones are released which cause this feeling of having a heart attack.

Researchers looked at citizens in Denmark who were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Out of the 88, 600 people, 41 percent of them who lost a partner were more likely to develop atrial fibrillation within the first month of their partner’s death compared to those who hadn’t lost anyone. The researchers also discovered that the risk is higher in younger people, especially when a partner as died suddenly or unexpectedly.

A cardiologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, Harmony Reynolds, states that “We can’t stop stressful situations from coming up in our lives but there may be ways to change the way stress affects our bodies.” She says regular exercise, things like yoga, meditation, and even deep breathing can increase the parasympathetic nervous system which increase our body’s ability to handle stress. However, these activities won’t be able to reduce the risk completely.

This study, as large and somewhat thorough as it is, can’t completely confirm that the feelings of grief or loss are directly related to atrial fibrillation. “Right now our work can only point to an association, but we hope to help make a shift in society’s mindset—that a time of grief is not only a mental state but maybe also physical,” says Graff, the author of the study.

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.”

Rap battle: is the Earth flat or spherical?

While the ancient Greeks were among the first to perceive that the Earth is spherical, there were still individuals who thought that couldn’t be possible, the Earth had to be flat. Because the ground is level and clearly flat.

In this depiction of what a flat Earth would look like, Antarctica is represented as a layer of ice surrounding a disc-shaped Earth. Image from LiveScience.
In this depiction of what a flat Earth would look like, Antarctica is represented as a layer of ice surrounding a disc-shaped Earth. Image from LiveScience.

This “levelheaded” thinking is, relatively, what makes up more current flat Earth beliefs. In the last century an entire group — the Flat Earth Society — has grown up around it. The nineteenth century variant of this was called the Zetetic Society, which eventually disbanded.

A Twitter dispute among astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper-singer Bobby Ray Simmons Jr. (known as B.o.B), raised the debate of the flat Earth theory, and it inevitably transformed into a full-out rap battle.

B.o.B initiated things on Monday when he began tweeting about how he truly knows the Earth is flat. He tweeted additionally regarding why he knows NASA is concealing the reality about the edge of the world. Also, he shared several futile charts about Earth including one about flight routes.

The rapper posted more than 50 tweets, including “I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived”.

Tyson logged on to Twitter, and reacted accordingly. He clarified why the Earth was round, in a brief chain of tweets.

Tuesday evening, Tyson’s nephew released his own track, called “Flat To Fact,” composed and rapped by his nephew, Stephen Tyson. He tweeted: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.” Here’s the song:

“Very important that I clear this up / You say that Neil’s vest is what he needs to loosen up? / The ignorance you’re spinning helps to keep people enslaved, I mean mentally.”

I strongly encourage everyone to listen to both the tracks in full, and even check out B.o.B’s and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s twitter accounts.

Kanye vs. Wiz: The real winners and losers of Twitter

Twitter has become a favorite platform for celebrities to air out their beef with other celebrities. One of 2015’s favorite Twitter arguments was between rappers Drake and Meek Mill. Drake, whose albums “What a Time to be Alive” and “Views From the 6″ have been endlessly chart-topping, was called out by Meek Mill for allegedly using ghostwriters.  This social media drama resulted in both of the rappers producing “diss tracks” aimed at one another. Meek Mill’s track ultimately flopped, while both of Drake’s tracks gained huge popularity, especially Drake’s track titled, “Back to Back” which called out Meek Mill for his Twitter insults.

Although Meek Mill’s track was a failure, the beef generated hilarious memes featuring the two rappers. Drake even used a slideshow of some of the memes on a giant screen at the beginning of a concert.

Who will win? Graphic from YouTube
Who will win? Graphic from YouTube

While small Twitter cat-fights between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift drew some attention, the newest Twitter beef that’s generating hilarious Tweets, Memes and Vines (oh my!) is between Wiz Khalifa and Kanye West. Kanye Tweeted a series of comments about Wiz, saying Wiz had disrespected him and that he was his “OG” and should be treated as such. Kanye even went as far as to imply that if he hadn’t ended his previous relationship with Amber Rose, the mother of Wiz’s child and his ex-wife, that he wouldn’t have his son. Kanye went as far as to say, “I own your child.”

Kanye eventually deleted the series of Tweets and told his followers that he was trying to focus on “positive vibes.” But these Tweets were only deleted when Amber Rose stepped in to call out Kanye for what could be considered odd sexual favors that he had once received from her. Twitter exploded with praise and, of course, insults directed at Amber Rose. However, a series of memes has begun to rise from the ashes of the Kanye vs. Wiz beef.

While Amber Rose’s methods of silencing Kanye are especially hilarious, the person really taking a loss on Twitter and with his music as of late is none other than rapper “B.o.b.”. B.o.b. took to Twitter saying that the Earth is flat, and he can prove it. The “Airplanes” rapper stated that if the Earth was round, you would be able to tell by looking at the Horizon. He even posted photos of himself with a sunset as a backdrop, stating that because the Horizon is flat from our view of it, that the Earth must also be flat.

B.o.b. even took his theory so far as to put it into a diss track aimed at astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The track stated that it was only “common sense” that the Earth is flat. B.o.b. goes on in the track to say that there is some sort of conspiracy and that globalists don’t want us to know that after all this time, the Earth has been flat. The song’s lyrics get even more inaccurate when B.o.b. asks, “Why’s NASA part of the Department of Defense?”

The song calls out Tyson with B.o.b. saying he needs to “loosen his vest.” Tyson’s nephew, Stephen Tyson replied in the most hilarious way by releasing a diss track of his own titled, “Flat to Fact.” The song is modeled after Drake’s “Back to Back” diss track, following similar rhyme patterns. In the lyrics, Tyson calls out B.o.b. for believing he is a “free thinker,” when really the idea that the Earth is flat is so old and so ignorant, the logic behind it is truly enslaving.

So who really took the biggest Twitter loss in the last year? In my opinion, B.o.B. definitely took the biggest “L” with his ancient and idiotic ideas of a flat Earth. Meek Mill can relax, as it seems the fingers are going to pointing at B.o.B. for the time being.

Nice guys don’t always finish last

You’ve heard of the expression “nice guys finish last.” And if you’re a guy, you may feel that term to be true. “Bad boys” are exciting, right? Being treated like garbage, ignored, but still able to go out to parties and be seen with the most mysterious hot guy there? It’s thrilling to have your heart torn into pieces and thrown into the fire. Right? Wrong.

Forget that overused, utterly long, unfortunate phrase. A new study by scientists for the University of Worcester and the University of Sunderland, both in the United Kingdom, discovered that men who are attentive to the happiness and prosperity of others rather than themselves may be more attractive to women in comparison to men who are just good-looking.

Image from parentmap.com
Selfless men are seen as more desirable, if women want a long term relationship. Image from parentmap.com

Altruism is the term for when someone acts in a way that is beneficial to others and not themselves. In the new study, the researchers analyzed what happened when two desirable characteristics, physical attractiveness and altruism, were investigated together, and whether women preferred one quality over the other.

In the study, 202 women were shown pictures of 24 men of varying degrees of attractiveness. Alongside the photos were descriptions of the men doing something like saving a child from a river or buying coffee for a homeless person. Other photos were accompanied with rude or unappealing situations, such as the man refusing to help in either of the previous scenarios.

The researchers found that being selfless gave men a better chance with a woman if she was looking for something long term.

In contrast, the new study found that selfish men were seen as more desirable among women who were looking for a fling. Farrelly said he found this result interesting, and he said one possible explanation is that it relates to other characteristics that women prefer in short-term partners. For instance, it might be that if a woman is looking for something short term, her choice of a partner might be one with less socially desirable traits such as narcissism, the researchers said.

If you want a fling, continue on your “bad boy” path, if you’re looking for something a little more serious, try finding someone who thinks of others than themselves..

Barbie’s new realistic body types

Barbie has been placing an impossible idealistic body shape for young girls since the late 1950s.

If Barbie was a woman in real-life, she’d have to walk on all fours, her head would be two inches bigger than the average American woman’s while her neck would be twice as long and six inches more slender. With these estimations she’d be completely unable to lift her head.

Additionally, her 16-inch waist would be four inches smaller than her head, leaving space for only half a liver and a couple inches of digestive system.

Barbie’s figure compared to an average-sized woman. Image from Huffington Post.

With 3.5 inch wrists and 6-inch ankles she would be unable to do any heavy lifting, making it even impossible for her to walk on her two legs.

Have no fear, future parents of young girls, because now, in addition to the original Barbie, the doll will come in tall, petite and curvy assortments. Youngsters will now have the ability  to play with dolls that they can strive to look like, without developing eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

The look of the Curvy Barbie. Image from Mattel.

According to Mattel, Barbie will now come in four body types and seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. 33 dolls will roll out in stages, spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said.

The look of the Petite Barbie. Image from Mattel.

Tania Missad, consumer insights director for the doll line, said “We have to let girls know it doesn’t matter what shape you come in, that anything is possible,” in a video on Mattel’s Barbie website.

The look of the Tall Barbie. Image from Mattel.

The new Barbie dolls come following years of disapproval aimed at Mattel over the doll’s impractical proportions and worry that Barbie reinforced a single, practically impossible standard of the “ideal body” for girls to try to meet.

A 2006 British study found that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape” than girls who were given dolls with larger body types or not given dolls at all.

Thursday’s announcement was met with approval on social media.

For the time being, only a few of the dolls are available for sale and only through Mattel’s online store. Chidori said that the dolls will hit stores on March 1. The full line will come out in stages consistently throughout 2016.

Why habits are hard to break

A new study by Duke University scientists presents that habits leave an enduring imprint on particular circuits in the brain, preparing us to nourish our desires.

Published online January 21 in the journal Neuron, the examination develops researchers’ comprehension of how habits like eating sugar and different vices appear in the brain and proposes new procedures for breaking them.

“One day, we may be able to target these circuits in people to help promote habits that we want and kick out those that we don’t want,” said Nicole Calakos, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s senior examiner and an associate professor of neurology and neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center.

Calakos, a specialist in the brain’s versatility and adaptability, collaborated with Henry Yin, a specialist in animal  habit-related behavior in Duke’s department of psychology and neuroscience. Both researchers are additionally members of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

The scientists trained generally sound mice to shape different degrees of a sugar habit by dispensing sweets if they pressed a lever. The mice that developed a dependency on the sugar continued pushing the lever even without being rewarded with a sweet.

IMG_6576
Photo by: Danielle Johnson. Photo of: Raven Mason

The researchers then compared the brains of the sugar-dependent mice with those that didn’t develop a habit. Specifically, they looked at the basal ganglia, “a complex network of brain areas that controls motor actions and compulsive behaviors, including drug addiction.”

The basal ganglia, scientists said, discharged two primary types of paths carrying opposing messages, a “go” message that spurs action and a “stop” signal.

For the non-dependent mice, the stop signal was turned on prior to the go signal. The opposite was the case for the addicted mice. The analysts said they anticipated that the stop signal would be less dynamic in a dependent brain.

The analysts noted that the adjustments in the circuits took place over the “entire region of the basal ganglia they were studying as opposed to specific subsets of brain cells.” The progressions were “long-lasting and obvious” to the point scientists could tell which brain was dependent by observing small pieces in a petri dish.

This, analysts add, may be why one addiction can prompt others.

As a major aspect of the study, the researchers needed to check whether they could end habits in the mice, by just giving them sweets when they quit pushing the lever. The mice that ended the habit had “weaker go cells.”

This could prompt offering people some assistance with breaking negative habits, however since the basal ganglia is so intricate, it may be difficult to target with medications, said the researchers.

Their discoveries are distributed in the journal Neuron.