Pumped Milk Gives Infants Different Bacteria Than Breastfeeding, Study Says

By Roni Dengler | February 15, 2019 5:04 pm
baby feeding milk bottle

(Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Mother’s milk provides sustenance for babies. Now researchers find pumped breast milk exposes newborns to more disease-causing bacteria than milk directly from the breast. The discovery suggests breastfeeding practices could shift the makeup of microorganisms in breast milk and infants’ digestive systems.

“We were surprised that the method of feeding was the most consistent factor associated with milk microbiota composition,” said Meghan Azad, a medical geneticist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba in Canada, who led the new research. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: microbes & viruses

NASA Wants to Return to the Moon as Early as This Year

By Korey Haynes | February 15, 2019 3:13 pm
NASA moon

NASA has big plans for returning to the moon, but private companies will do much of the work. (Credit: NASA)

In November, NASA tapped nine private spaceflight companies who will be allowed to bid on upcoming projects. Yesterday, they elaborated on what those projects would be during an industry forum. Starting as early as this year, NASA hopes to send commercial landers to the lunar surface as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: moon, space exploration

Climate Change Hearings Signal Congress Is Willing to Address the Issue Again

By Roni Dengler | February 14, 2019 4:53 pm
climate change

(credit: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock)

Climate change is real. It’s happening now. And it presents significant problems for the U.S. across multiple facets of society, according to a panel of climate and policy experts that testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The testimonials were part of the House Science Committee’s first full hearing of the 116th Congress and one of only a handful in the last eight years to address climate change. But that’s about to change. In her opening remarks, House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said Wednesday’s hearing will be the first of multiple hearings on climate change in the near future.

“Climate change is not just an environmental challenge,” said Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, during his testimony. “It’s an economic challenge, an infrastructure challenge, a public health challenge and a national security challenge.”

Carbon Cuts

For the most part, House representatives were in agreement with the panel that climate change is real and harming not only the environment but the economy and Americans. During the nearly two and half hours of questions that followed the researchers’ testimonies, representatives asked the scientists to identify priorities and sought their suggestions for solutions.

“Human emissions of CO2 must be brought as close to zero as possible with any continued emissions of CO2 balanced by human removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Kopp, who suggested expanding forests and using new, but little-tested technologies as a start. “The faster we reduce emissions, the less severe the effects and the lower the risk of unwelcome surprises,” he added.

Cities, states and a number of companies are already taking action by adopting emission reduction targets, but Kopp says these efforts need to grow dramatically and rapidly to effectively manage climate risk.

But Joseph Majkut, a policy expert with the Niskanen Center, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., who also testified, acknowledged, “That’s a challenging thing to do.”

“To even get close, we’ll need significant innovation in low-carbon technology, finance and market design in order to be able to provide reliable, affordable and globally accessible low carbon energy,” Majkut said.

Majkut projected that to reach any temperature target, much less the 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming goal set by the IPCC, would require carbon capture and storage of fossil fuels as well as carbon removal technologies in conjunction with renewable energy and storage solutions. He then advocated for research into alternatives to reducing global emissions, such as geoengineering technologies that would offset greenhouse gas production.

The scientists’ recommendations align with many facets of the Green New Deal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) recently proposed. The legislation calls for a massive policy shift that bolsters the U.S. economy and cuts greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Like the solutions Majkut outlined for the House Science Committee, the Green New Deal lists expanding and upgrading renewable energy sources, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and increasing carbon storage as ways to achieve its goal.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and others raised concerns about the cost of such an initiative, asking “If the Green New Deal were implemented immediately, wouldn’t it devastate our economy?” But, says Majkut, reducing CO2 associated with economic activity is “one of the cheapest elements” of the bill.

Adaptive Measures

The scientists testifying before the House also recommended prioritizing research into the ways society might adapt to climate change and called on federal support for studies of how climate change will affect communities, a research topic Kristie Ebi, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is already looking into.

Ebi, another scientist to testify at the hearing, investigates how climate change affects human health. Researchers have discovered Americans are already suffering and dying from climate change and the impacts will likely only get worse.

“Risk from vector-borne diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever and Lyme disease are projected to increase with warming from 1.5 to 2 C (2.7 to 3.6 F) including potential shifts in their geographic range to areas previously unexposed to these diseases,” Ebi said. “Further, our healthcare infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme events with, for example, many hospitals and healthcare clinics located in coastal regions subject to flooding.”

Yet, there are achievable ways to alleviate the projected risks and costs associated with climate change’s impacts on communities, Ebi said, such as “developing early notification response plans for extreme heat … and incorporating climate projections into emergency preparedness and disaster risk management initiatives.”

“These steps can protect health now and provide a basis for effective adaptation to our future climate,” she added.

And if the world does not slow the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, Americans’ health and the U.S. economy will suffer because of impacts associated with mortality and the ability of people to work outdoors, scientists say. More extreme weather events will also affect human health and the economy.

“We know that in 2018, the losses due to extreme weather were roughly $160 billion just to the U.S.,” said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, during her testimony. “But what keeps me up at night is thinking about my own daughter and the world she will face if we do nothing.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

Researchers Create ‘Rat Cyborgs’ That People Control With Their Minds

By Bill Andrews | February 14, 2019 3:43 pm
Rat cyborg robot mind control

(Credit: Azimuth_A/shutterstock)

I’ll just come right out and say it: Scientists have created human-controlled rat cyborgs.

Lest you think this is some media sensationalism at work, here’s the actual title of the paper under discussion, which came out last week in Scientific Reports: “Human Mind Control of Rat Cyborg’s Continuous Locomotion with Wireless Brain-to-Brain Interface.” That pretty much says it all.

Some of this tech — such as brain-brain interfaces (BBIs) and rat cyborgs — is nothing new in science, so in a way this just a small step in an already existing race. But, put another way: people are controlling rat cyborgs with their freaking brains now. Wirelessly.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Technology, top posts

Mice Deprived of ‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin Sit Alone in the Cold

By Nala Rogers | February 14, 2019 10:19 am
mouse babies huddle

(Credit: auenleben via Pixabay)

(Inside Science) — Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls at a chilly time of year. In biological terms, social drives like love may be bound up with the need to keep warm.

The same hormone, oxytocin, helps regulate both physical and emotional warmth, increasing body heat and facilitating social bonding. And according to recent research, baby mice deprived of the hormone are less likely to cuddle with other mice or crawl toward heated surfaces. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts

This Is What Your City Might Feel Like in 60 Years Due to Climate Change

By Nala Rogers | February 13, 2019 5:30 pm
downtown Pittsburgh

If climate change proceeds unchecked, the Pittsburgh of 2080 may feel like a recent northeastern Arkansas. (Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock)

(Inside Science) — In 60 years, the climate of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will feel kind of like a contemporary Jonesboro, Arkansas, with higher temperatures and more winter precipitation, according to a new study. That’s assuming fossil fuel emissions continue to rise; if instead we succeed in curbing emissions, Pittsburgh will instead become more like Madison, Indiana.

Pittsburgh is one of 540 cities in the U.S. and Canada for which scientists have found doppelgangers of their climate futures — places where the recent climate is as close as possible to another city’s future climate. Anyone can explore the findings using an online interactive map. The results were published today in the journal Nature Communications. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: climate change

NASA Declares ‘Mission Complete’ For Opportunity Rover

By Alison Klesman | February 13, 2019 1:30 pm
mars opportunity rover dust solar panels

After 10 years on Mars, Opportunity accumulated a thick coat of red dust, as seen in the self-portrait on the left in early January 2014. But the thin Martian atmosphere does have wind, and two months later, that wind blew much of the dust off the spacecraft, thus improving the performance of the solar panels that gather power for the rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

On January 24, 2004, the Opportunity rover sent back its first signal from the Red Planet. That marked the start of a 90-day planned mission for the six-wheeled, golf cart-sized rover. Fifteen years later, the rover’s mission has finally ended, NASA announced today.

Its longevity and discoveries are a testament to Opportunity’s design and construction. The rover ultimately sent back more than 200,000 raw images and traveled a total of 28 miles (45 kilometers), farther than a standard marathon and an accomplishment its mission planners never expected.

Beyond the design performance, Opportunity’s findings have helped researchers reconstruct Mars’ wet past, raising the possibility that microbial life could have survived on its ancient surface.

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, “gave us a planet,” Scott Maxwell, former rover planning lead for Spirit and Opportunity, told Discover. “They were our eyes and ears, our remote robot bodies.”

But on June 10, 2018, after outlasting Spirit by eight years, Opportunity fell silent under the shroud of a planet-encircling dust storm. By February 6, NASA reported that more than 835 recovery commands had been sent to the rover over a span of frequencies, including those outside its normal communications range. None had been answered.  According to the mission site, this was the team’s “strategy of last resort.”

Today in a press conference at 11 A.M. PST, NASA announced the completion of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. “Our beloved Opportunity remains silent,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, during the conference.  Zurbuchen was present Tuesday night during a final planned attempt to reach the rover Tuesday evening, asking the rover to respond. But no response came, prompting NASA to conclude that she remains asleep, and her mission can now be honored as a resounding success.

“Today we get to celebrate the end of this mission,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He went on to say that scientists will be benefitting for years from the data taken during Opportunity’s 14 years spent roving the Red planet.

What killed Opportunity?

As of January 24, Opportunity — with an original mission plan lasting just 90 days and covering only about 1,100 yards (1 km) of distance — had clocked 15 years on Mars. The rover had long surpassed both its original three-month warranty period, and its twin rover, Spirit, which fell silent in 2010 from a location NASA named “Troy,” on the western side of the Home Plate plateau. Spirit, which suffered wheel damage, became stuck at Troy and was unable to collect sufficient sunlight during the following Martian winter, similarly suffering a lack of power and cold damage.

By early last June, the rover’s location, in “Perseverance Valley” on the western rim of the crater Endeavour, had been engulfed by a growing dust storm. That storm clouded the red Planet’s skies with dust and blotting out the Sun. Opportunity, which relied on sunlight to charge its batteries and keep its electronics warm, went to sleep as a protective measure against the prolonged period of darkness. But even after the skies above it began to clear in early August, the rover slept on.

By September 11, the atmosphere above the rover’s location had cleared enough for adequate sunlight to reach the rover’s panels, provided they were relatively free of dust.  It also started the clock on a 45-day period that NASA believed would be the best window of time for getting a response from the rover.

Throughout that period, NASA’s Deep Space Network continued to broadcast commands to the rover, which likely suffered a number of “faults” due to the prolonged lack of sunlight. By consistently actively pinging the rover during both preplanned recovery times and other random intervals, engineers had hoped to catch Opportunity during an awake period.

But following the final planned attempt, NASA has now concluded that Opportunity will remain silent and stationary at her final location.

Mission’s End

“There’s probably no more fitting way for her to have gone than in the strongest dust storm we’ve ever seen on Mars — for her, I would expect nothing less. Now she can rest, beneath a thin layer of dust, knowing she did humanity proud,” Tanya Harrison, director of research for the Space Technology and Science Initiative at Arizona State University and science team collaborator on Opportunity, told Astronomy.

“Spirit and Opportunity may be gone, but they leave us a legacy,” said Mike Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during the press conference. The Mars Exploration Rovers, he added, “energized the public about the spirit of robotic Mars exploration.” Their legacy, he said, will live on with the enthusiasm and support for not only Curiosity, currently exploring Mars, but the upcoming Mars 2020 mission as well.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: mars, space exploration

The Greatest Discoveries From NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover

By Korey Haynes | February 13, 2019 1:15 pm
panorama of Mars' Orion Crater

Opportunity traveled for 14 years on Mars, taking data and images such as this one from Orion Crater. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

The Opportunity rover, like its twin Spirit, was designed for an original mission of just three months. When engineers lost contact on June 10 of last year, it had been exploring for fourteen years. And today, mission scientists finally declared an official end to the mission. Here are just a few of Opportunity’s many successes during its long Red Planet expedition. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: mars

Reprogrammed Human Pancreatic Cells Treat Diabetes in Mice

By Roni Dengler | February 13, 2019 12:00 pm
diabetes blood test

(Credit: Africa Studios/Shutterstock)

Nearly 10 percent of Americans have diabetes, a chronic condition where the body does not process sugar. Diabetics either do not make enough insulin — a hormone that acts like a key to let sugars into cells to use for energy — or cells stop responding to insulin. As a result, sugar builds up in the bloodstream leading to high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can give rise to nerve damage and heart disease among other complications.

Now researchers have reprogrammed human cells that do not normally make insulin to produce the vital hormone. The converted cells reversed diabetes in mice with the disease. The discovery provides evidence that our cells can take on different identities, potentially opening up a novel approach to treating degenerative diseases, the researcher say. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: medical technology

NASA To Speak Today on the Fate of Mars Opportunity Rover

By Korey Haynes | February 13, 2019 8:30 am
illustration of mars opportunity rover

The Opportunity Rover has been out of contact since last June, and scientists are running out of options. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University)

NASA will hold a briefing at 2pm EST today on the status of its Mars Opportunity Rover, which has been out of communication since June 10, 2018, when dust storms enveloped the planet.

Mission scientists have been trying to rouse the rover since dust storms subsided in October, but have been unsuccessful so far. Previous reporting indicated that few options were left for Opportunity. Winter is coming on Mars, and the low temperatures could permanently damage the rover if it can’t power itself back up. This week NASA tried once again to communicate with Opportunity, and will be reporting their findings this afternoon.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will be present, as well as the heads of NASA’s planetary science and of Opportunity’s rover program. NASA will stream the briefing on NASA Television, the NASA website or you can watch below on YouTube.

http://youtube.com/nasajpl/live

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: mars
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