Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Follow this link to read the full article:
Sunday, May 16, 2010
To make up for the fact that I was left in Eastlake AGAIN, Pat decided that I needed a hobby to keep me busy and invited me to post to this sweet blog.
Will I update every day? Of course not, I am a cactus for cryin' out loud!
Did you know that the tallest species of cactus in the world is the Pachycereus pringlei?
Well, you do now.
The tallest one ever recorded was 19.2 meters tall.
To learn more, check out this link:
Saturday, May 15, 2010
According to this article, an 82-year-old man in India named Prahlad Jani has gone 70 years without food or water.
Now, I do understand that meditation can affect metabolism. In the past I have seen documentaries of monks that can dry a wet towel on their back by meditating to increase their body temperature so the water visibly evaporates off like steam. But, come on.
The longest recorded hunger strike I could find lasted only 68 days, and that one ended with Barry Horne's partial blindness and kidney damage.
No matter how long the body can go without food, it will eventually run out of the materials it needs to run normally (glucose, vitamins, minerals, water, etc) and will begin to break itself down to get what it needs. This directly conflicts with one of the most basic, fundamental principles of biology: the energy requirements to sustain life.
When Prahlad was observed for two weeks by Indian military doctors, nothing seemed out of place, but all that did was prove he can last two weeks without food. Scientists will all agree that it is possible for almost anyone to live for two weeks without food (you'll just be really REALLY hungry). The longest we can live without taking in any water is up to 10 days in optimal conditions.
The human body IS amazing; it can survive for many weeks without food and many days without water.
But it CANNOT survive for 70 straight years without the intake of any food or any water...
It is simply impossible.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Even though I am no longer taking Senior Seminar, I have decided to continue posting to our blog. As an avid scientist-in-training, I feel the need to share things about science that I find interesting. As usual, my aim is to try to amuse the average web surfer while teaching a little bit too.
I was sifting through my e-mail when I noticed the link my brother sent me about new pictures NASA obtained of the sun. Four different cameras allow the satellite to look at the sun’s surface, layer by layer.
These pictures, which are 10x better than HD, should help scientists better understand the link between the sun’s activity and the atmosphere (or, more specifically, climate change).
Here is the link. I would have posted this sooner, but I had Finals to take. You will have to watch a stupid ad first. I tried to use my mad coding skillset to get around this, but I’m still feeling the effects of partying with my graduating friends so I didn’t try too hard:
Friday, April 30, 2010
Between being subjected to Tom’s awful taste in music approximately seven thousand fifty six times, I managed to take some awesome pictures of our trip. Enjoy!
Even 15-foot tall sand dunes are futile attempts to prevent the erosion that barrier islands experience naturally.
We went kayaking in a salt marsh and I spotted a duck. I was able to get close enough to take this sweet pic right as it took off.
The Cape Hatteras Light Station. It is 198 feet tall, and you must climb 257 steps to reach the top!
The view from the top was insane! It took me three minutes just to stop hugging the wall and stand by the edge to take this picture.
The Littoraria snails will climb the Spartina marsh grass to escape predation by crabs below. They can hold on even as they sleep by secreting a sticky substance onto the spot and just hang there, sleeping.
We came across this huge fish skeleton in the salt marsh. I took a picture with my hand next to it to set the scale for how huge this thing was.
Once you get the chance, go check out the Outer Banks! But whatever you do, don’t feed the Laughing gulls! They will stalk you forever if you do.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
For anyone that has taken a microbiology course, especially here at Ashland you feel completely dirty after finishing up experiments in lab. So what better way of cleansing yourself from a hard days work in the lab, experimenting with bacteria that you are trying to identify for your 25 page lab report. Who doesn’t like waking up and taking a hot shower before school or work to feel clean throughout the day? What people don’t know is that the showerhead is a perfect environment for microbes. It’s moist, warm, dark and frequently replenished with low amounts of nutrients for these microbes to feed on. Who could have thought that these microbes can lead to pulmonary disease and other health risks such as asthma and bronchitis? Believe it or not it is true and studies have proven that microbes do exist.
The common microbe that was found in high levels was Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen that is linked to pulmonary disease. M. avium and related pathogens were seen clumped together on showerheads in slimy biofilms. Studies shown that the showerheads were more than 100 times the background levels of municipal water when compared to the showerhead when they were taken off. "If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy," said study leader Norman Pace.
These biofilms were swabbed on interior surfaces of 45 showerheads from nine cities in the United States. Researchers found that nearly a third of the showerheads tested were harboring these pathogens. While it is rarely a problem for most healthy people, those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women or those who are fighting off other diseases, can be susceptible to infection.
One showerhead in the study was found with high loads of the pathogen Mycobacterium gordonae. The showerhead was cleaned with a bleach solution, but later tests on the showerhead showed the bleach treatment had actually caused a three-fold increase in M. gordonae, indicating a general resistance of mycobacteria species to chlorine.
Research at National Jewish Hospital in Denver indicates that increases in lung infections in the United States in recent decades from so-called “non-tuberculosis” mycobacteria species like M. avium may be linked to people taking more showers and few¬er baths, said Pace. Water spurting from showerheads can distribute pathogen-filled droplets that float in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs.
So what should I do about taking showers? I really don’t want to be the smelly kid in class that everyone talks about. Well, fellow readers you can always replace the showerhead. Research shows that that plastic showerheads allow for more bacteria to clump together when compared to the metal showerhead counterpart. You can also allow the water to run at the hottest level for a couple of minutes and then turn the water to a tolerable level. Not welling to give up that 1980’s showerhead? Solution, take a bath.
Falkinham III, Joseph, and Michael Iseman. "Mycobacterium avium in a shower linked to pulmonary disease." Journal of Water and Health. 6.2 (2008): 209-11. Print.
Feazel, Leah, Laura Baumgartner, and Kristin Peterson. "Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 12.2 (2009): n. pag. Web. 28 Apr 2010.
As I have stated before I am one of the unfortunate 64 million people in America that suffer from insomnia. My dad has it, my brother has it, and I have it. Without insomnia I probably wouldn’t get a whole lot of things done (like this blog post). Fortunately for me having insomnia also has some other perks, such as getting to watch TV shows about insomnia. Earlier tonight I watched a show on the National Geographic channel about a form of insomnia that I was completely unaware of and I am sure I am not the only person who is unaware of it since it affects only 40 families in the entire world. This type of insomnia is called Fatal Familial Insomnia or FFI. I never thought that Insomnia could kill someone, but this form of Insomnia makes every person who is diagnosed with it a victim.
I thought that I would go over the sleep cycle a little bit first to help you understand how sleeping works but since a colleague has already posted a blog about it I will just set up a link to that post here http://fourthirstypandas.blogspot.com/2010/04/sweet-dream-or-beautiful-nightmare.html.
FFI has been characterized as a genetic disorder caused by a mutation at codon 178 of the prion protein gene. This is also a problem in the condition called “Mad Cow Disease.” Prions are proteins that attack the nervous system and cause the symptoms associated with “Mad Cow Disease.” In FFI the cause of the prion protein is genetic, where a single base pair is coded incorrectly. This is one of 3 billion base pairs known in the human genome. In FFI the prions accumulate in the Thalamus in the brain. The Thalamus was never thought to control sleep, but it does transmit signals to the cortex of the brain. In patients with FFI lesions occurred in the Thalamus and the Cortex of the brain. With FFI 90% of the neurons in the Thalamus have disappeared.
ally sleep has been one of the hardest things to study, but some recent studies using a PET scan and a tagged amino acid may give us some clues as to why we need to sleep. One of the theories is that we need sleep to repair proteins in the cells of the brain, which can’t happen while we are awake because the brain is too busy and has too many processes happening. During a normal day while we are awake we accumulate adenosine in our brain, which signals our bodies to sleep. Sleep would eliminate the adenosine and produce more proteins for repair of the brain cells.
Humans have varying levels of sleep, but so do many animals in nature. A normal human gets somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night, but an animal such as a lion gets up to 15 hours a day. A elephant on the other hand gets around 4 hours of sleep. One of the theories about this is that predator species can sleep more because they don’t generally have many predators, while the prey species get much less sleep so they can evade their predators. But what if we could sleep and be awake at the same time. I know this sound ridiculous, but a few animals in nature already have achieved this process. If we could somehow find out how to translate this to humans we could eliminate FFI and other sleep associated disorders.
One of the species in nature that sleeps all the time but we never see it are dolphins. I always think of a dolphin as an animal that is always moving and swimming. A study done in San Diego evaluated if a dolphin lost any mental abilities when forced to stay alert for multiple days. The dolphin was trained to detect a swimmer that was in the bay while the dolphin was detained in a fenced area. When the dolphin detected the swimmer it hit a switch on the dock. The dolphin showed no decline in activity and detected every time the swimmer was in the bay. The dolphin slept throughout the entire experiment. This is possible due to dolphins having something called unihemispheric sleep. Throughout the dolphins life one half of their brain is active while the other is sleeping and then they switch. Another animal that is theorized to do this is many different avian species. Studies have shown that they can sleep while also watching for predators while they are on land, but it is still unclear wheather they can sleep while flying.
So far for all terrestrial mammals, sleep is needed. After several days of sleep deprivation there is a drastic decrease in overall health. One side effect is diabetes, due to insulin resistance that is accumulated. There is also a decrease in lymphocytes which fight bacterial infections in the body. In most mammals if sleep is deprived for 2 weeks death will occur. In patients with FFI death usually occurs from 7 to 36 months, and the unfortunate thing is that once symptoms of FFI start they never go away until the patient dies. The unfortunate thing about this disease is that there is currently no cure. And if one family member is ever diagnosed with FFI there is a 50% chance that their children will be diagnosed with it as well since it is a dominant gene.
So now that I have accumulated a massive amount of adenosine in my brain I think I will go sleep and I encourage everybody else to get sufficient amounts of sleep as well.
1. National Geographic Explorer: “Fatal Insomnia”, aired April 27, 2010
2. Fatal familial insomnia: clinical features and molecular genetics; PIETRO CORTELLI, PIERLUIGI GAMBETTI, PASQUALE MONTAGNA and ELIO LUGARESI; J. Sleep Res. (1999) 8, Suppl. 1, 23-29; European Sleep Research Society
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
But I was worried. Tanning lotions were out because I don’t like the thought of smearing skin-altering chemicals on myself. And I had heard from many sources that tanning beds cause cancer. So I decided to look into the matter.
According to this study I found , exposure to tanning beds actually does increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma (skin cancer).
Ting and his crew wanted to test the hypothesis that increased exposure to tanning beds was linked to an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma.
To perform the study, surveys were completed by a random sample of 551 patients. The surveys asked questions like:
- Extent of tanning bed exposure (how much of the body was exposed to the tanning bed),
- use in the last 12 months (number of tanning sessions in the past year),
- age at first exposure,
- season of use (when in the year do they go tanning?),
- lifetime number of tanning sessions,
- minutes spent per session,
- sun protection attitudes and practices (do they usually wear sunscreen?), and
- leisure and occupational sun exposure (how often are they exposed to natural sunlight?).
The survey also looked at demographic information, such as:
- tendency to tan,
- level of education,
- work environment (indoor or outdoor),
- number of sunburns in the past, and
- previous history of various cancers.
Here is a look at the demographic information.
When doing a scientific study, you must always be wary of confounding variables (also known in statistics as a lurking variable). A confounding variable is any variable other than the independent variable that may bear any effect on the behavior of the subject being studied.
An example of a lurking variable would be testing infant memory with a matching game, but waiting too long between tests so that improved results on the second game may be due to the baby’s brain developing and not the baby’s memory. (Wikipedia)
The study took into account confounding variables such as:
- Indoor vs. outdoor occupation and leisure activities,
- Fitzpatrick skin type (numeric scale for skin color),
- history of blistering sunburn, and
- use of sunscreen and sun protective clothing.
If a patient had a family history of malignant melanoma, he was not assessed because of the potential for inaccuracy. (If their family is genetically more likely to get skin cancer without ever having used a tanning bed, than if they use tanning beds and get cancer it is impossible to determine the cause of the cancer.)
The answers to the survey were compared to those patients’ medical records. Of the 501 records available, 194 of the patients had been diagnosed with some kind of skin cancer (see Table 1).
Tables 2 and 3 below show the data that links exposure to tanning beds and risk for developing malignant melanoma. Click on them to make them larger.
“Most modern tanning units produce mainly UV-A and less than 5% UV-B, although this amount of UV-B irradiation exceeds that in natural sunlight, and is sufficient to cause immunosuppression.” 
Interestingly, (according to Ting) this was the first study that accounted for confounding factors, and considered the frequency or duration of tanning bed exposure.
Yeah, that might help.
After they did a bunch of calculations that I won’t go into, they found that their hypothesis was correct. Increased exposure to tanning beds increased the risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Most of the patients that went tanning the most were young women under 45 years old, which meant that they were at the greatest risk of developing skin cancer.
Since exposure to tanning beds would increase my risk for developing cancer, I guess I better find a safer way to get a tan.
Of course, all of this is a moot point now that I’m already back from our OBX trip.
And yes, I did get sunburned after only an hour of kayaking.
Ting, W., Schultz, K., Cac, N. N., Peterson, M., & Walling, H. W. (2007). Tanning bed exposure increases the risk of malignant melanoma. International Journal of Dermatology, 46(12), 1253-1257.
Journal article LINK
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
In general, there are two main forms of “being sick”—a bacterial infection which most know can be treated through use of antibiotics and a viral infects in which case…just go back to bed because there’s nothing you can do. Well, welcome to 2010 America! A recent publication in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America explains current research being performed using bacterial vectors as a mechanism to deliver RNase P-based ribozymes into specific human cells and inhibit viral infections (1).
In a nutshell a virus is an infectious agent that hijacks the cellular mechanisms of another type of cell. Most every organism can be infected by viruses including plants, bacteria, animals and humans. The basic structure of a virus is simple: protein coat and genetic material (hence the big controversy of whether or not they’re “living”) however some may contain an envelope of membranous material and surface proteins that often act in antigen-recognition of immunological responses. The genetic material of viruses is perhaps one of the reasons they’re so difficult to treat. Many viruses contain DNA, however some crazies out there have RNA and either of these can be single stranded, double stranded, linear or circular on top of the many recombinations, horizontal gene transfers, reassortments and mutations.
Viruses do not perform their own metabolism but, as mentioned earlier, hijack the host’s cellular machinery through the same basic process: Attachment to the outer membrane of the cell, penetration of the membrane into the cell’s interior, uncoating in which the viral protein coat, called a capsid, is removed to avoid immune defenses and inject the viral genome; Replication in which the genes injected are transcribed and translated via the host cell and the subsequent proteins assist in viral replication and finally release in which the host cell cannot continue producing viral proteins and burst, thus spreading the virus to surrounding cells (2).
Because the virus eliminated its protein coat, targeting the problem becomes especially hard. Also because it is host cells producing the viral proteins and subsequent virus for spread, eliminating host cells is the ideal, however not really an option (you can’t go off killing all your cells….Bad news Bears!) So for a while there, people just slept until their immune systems could “kick in” and get the job done. For some, however, that was not a possibility and the flu virus meant certain death. Sure there were some basic antiviral drugs that could target and prevent DNA replication, but often were not site-specific and ended in very gruesome side effects. Vaccines also help in which attenuate (dead or weakened) virus was pre-introduced before a nature infection could take place so the immune system could build antibodies before a real problem him. That’s really convenient…until the strain isn’t actually weakened or dead and you just infected an innocent human being with polio, THANKS CUTTER LABORATORIES! (3) Regardless most viral infections cannot truly be “cured” or even treated for that matter…until February 2010.
Yong Bai, Hongjian Li, Gia-Phong Vu, Hao Gong, Sean Umamoto, Tianhong Zhou, Sangwei Lu and Fenyong Liu recently published their research on Salmonella-mediated delivery of RNase P-based ribozymes for inhibition of viral gene expression and replication in human cells (1).
According to Bai et al, the main challenge of gene therapy is finding approached to deliver nucleic-acid based gene interfering agents like interfering RNAs and ribozymes. Interfering RNAs are small single stranded RNAs that are complementary to a sequence of mRNA. Upon being delivered, these single stranded RNAs find and bind with mRNA preventing translation and tagging it for destruction via the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) (4). Ribozymes (or RNA enzymes) are RNA molecules capable of catalyzing a reaction. These reactions are more than often hydrolysis of phosphodiester bonds including those in the backbones of complementary sequences, thus preventing translation of mRNA (I don’t know like maybe that of VIRAL INFECTIONS?! Hmmm) (5).
Anywho, back to the research. In the article mentioned above, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) was used as the target virus for study. A functional RNase P ribozyme called M1GS was constructed which targets the mRNA essential in synthesizing capsid proteins: the scaffolding protein and assembling which are required for the protein coat of the HCMV. This ribozyme was expressed using Salmonella strains and up to 90% of viral protein expression as well as about 5,000-fold reduction in viral growth was seen in the treated cells and NOT in untreated.
HCMV is an opportunistic pathogen which can lead to death in immunocompromised, neonates, AIDS patients and transplant recipients. In these patients the HCMV infests macrophages and monocytes resulting in lysis and spreading of the infection. To combat infections like this, Nucleic-acid based gene interference (the ribozymes and RNAi mentioned earlier) are used for specific targeting of infected cells. The problem with these mechanisms is getting them to the cells. Many of the vectors used now-a-days are attenuated or modified viruses which have many problems previously described. The research done here used the invasive bacteria Salmonella which has the ability to enter human cells and transfer genetic material. These bacteria have been used for anti-tumor small hairpin RNAs in cancer therapy due to their ability to specifically target dendritic cells, macrophages and epithelial cells. Using these bacteria to deliver ribozyme plasmids to macrophages infected with HCMV, it was seen that not only are capsid-scaffolding proteins and assmeblin necessary for viral replication but also that delivery of ribozyme via Salmonella to HCMV-infected cells resulted in effective inhibition of gene expression and replication and may demonstrate a novel method for ribozyme delivery and treatment of viral diseases.
1. Bai, Yong, et al. "Salmonella-mediated delivery of RNase P-based ribozymes for inhibition of viral gene expression and replication in human cells ." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America . 107.16 (2010): 7269-7274. Print.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I hear people saying all the time that being short has its perks, but I know of one situation in which it's a curse. While at Mammoth Cave, our guide took us to a drop which they call the Lion's Head. As you can see, I'm (yes, that's me!) hanging on for dear life (actually I'm having the time of my life)! Even though the floor is about 5 feet under me I still don't want to fall. Plus there's a huge stalagmite below not pictured prepared to attack, giving the formation the title of the Lion's Head. However, the tour guides there are helpful and make sure that you get down safely. Anyway, aside from the crazy expeditions, you can learn many things from going on a tour like this. You can learn about the glittering water in the cave that contains many organisms and certain minerals. You can also learn about certain epidemics that are affecting certain native species. For example, bats living in the caves are starting to contract a particular fungus. This fungus grows on their noses, killing them and affecting their natural behavior. This is known as the white nose syndrome and has effected many bats. It can be transferred to bats via humans. The syndrome also spreads amongst bats. I find this interesting and important because the bat population is steadily decreasing due to this malicious killer. Since the introduction of the white nose syndrome, the bat population in 2 New York caves was found to be reduced by 75% . This disease has spread to other caves in North America and researchers are studying this more to gain more of an insight into what it is and how to treat it.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I love Saint Patrick's Day! First of all, it's a great excuse to quality test the green spirits. Second, since my name is Patrick, I feel a certain obligation to be extra thorough in that testing. (The first two shots may have been fine, but we all know that only having two data points does not constitute a trend.)
Of course, the lizard does have to spend resources and energy into growing the tail back. Until it does, the lizard will be off balance and more vulnerable to predators, since it no longer has a tail it can drop.
 Lizard tail loss - Autotomy
Friday, March 5, 2010
In between cursing my three back-to-back exams, feverishly erasing, and peering at figures with shaded regions under curves from x = 0 to x = 5 with no comprehension whatsoever, I fantasized about having a photographic memory. Wouldn’t that be great? Sorry Studying, but it’s over; I’m dating your hotter younger sister, Alcohol.
Anyway, I spaced out once or twice due to the fact that I was running on about two hours of sleep over the past week, and my mind wandered to an episode of Monk. Randy loses all of his money at Blackjack, and Monk (who has a photographic memory) wins it all back for him – not by counting cards, but by memorizing the order of the cards while he watches the dealer shuffle the deck. Think Rainman, but as a detective for the San Francisco PD.
Well, I may not have a photographic memory, but there may be a way to have the next-best thing. Every few years, ads for those miracle “memory pills” (Ginkgo biloba) resurface.
Apparently, they help boost memory or cognitive ability or something. Or they could just be a placebo. I went to the Google search page to start my quest for answers (Bing fails at life).
According to this website by the University of Maryland Medical Center, all the studies about this leaf (the medicine is made from the leaves of a certain yew tree) may not agree, but the common benefits seem to be:
- Treating circulatory disorders
- Enhances thinking, learning, memory, and cognitive function
- Treating dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)
- Reduces feelings of depression (for people with Alzheimer’s disease)
But what is in these leaves that makes them so effective?
“More than 40 components isolated from the ginkgo tree have been identified, but only two are believed to be responsible for the herb's medicinal effects: flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that flavonoids protect the nerves, heart muscle, blood vessels, and retina from damage. Terpenoids (such as ginkgolides) improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of platelets.”
Cool. Maybe if I give them a try, I’ll actually pass a Calc test for once.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Have people lost their minds? According to Dr. Free-Ride, protesters have showed up at Ringach's home in masks at night traumatizing his family. I couldn't find how old his children are but can you image (if they're younger) the damage this could have emotionally, mentally and socially on his children? How is targeting one man's entire family for what they believe to be "corrupt action on HIS part" not equally brutal and gruesome? They refer to the primates as "innocent beings..." HELLO?! Are CHILDREN NOT innocent beings?!
That didn’t happen for me. In fact, nothing happened at all; I completely missed my 21st. I was so busy studying for two exams, writing a paper, and finishing a lab report that I worked right through mine. I didn’t catch on until two days later when I checked my mail and found the birthday card from my mom:
Intent on rectifying this on my 22nd, I realized I would need a way to sober up quick to be ready to help run the sign-in at a high school math competition at 8AM the next morning.
I was wracking my brains, and then five minutes ago, I remembered the Sober Up Techniques episode of Mythbusters.
We’ve all had an occasion where we need to sober up. But what is the best way? Is this it? Have I found the magic bullet?
Unfortunately, if I’m remembering correctly, this wasn’t the best method. I guess I’m stuck with black coffee.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Finding a video about something interesting in science was kind of challenging for me. So when all else fails I like to research my high school mascot the polar bear. Polar bears are large creatures that appear very scary. How scary can these somewhat cute animals be? Well it depends if your a husky trying to have some fun with a large bear. When I saw this video it was unbelievable.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHj82otCi7U
Monday, February 22, 2010
In summary, the article is exposing the recent rise in genetic testing as part of routine prenatal studies and how it’s almost eradicating many inherited diseases like Tay-Sach’s, dysautonomia and cystic fibrosis.
Marilynn Marchione, the author, looks at many numbers—the number of babies born with these diseases, percentages of decreases, amount of couples being tested. One huge factor she stumbles on (really it’s a minor note in the article) is screening embryos. I’d never heard of this and a description in the article is lacking (that’s issue #2) so I did some research. In-vitro fertilization is performed and when the embryo reaches the eight-cell mark, a single cell is removed and the DNA analyzed. If one or more disease-associated genetic alteration is found, that embryo is terminated. Only embryos without mutations are implanted into the womb. In some rare cases, individuals who choose to screen decide to go “all-out” choosing not only a mutation-free embryo but also one with a particular hair or eye color. Legal? Yes. Ethical?... Marchione briefly mentions eugenics and selective breeding after addressing “hot button issues” like abortion and embryo destruction which she returns to later in the article. But not eugenics. Not only does she not revert back to it later, she never describes what it is, so here goes: eugenics is the study or belief in a master race; undergoing “…measures to improve the innate humankind…solv[ing] the problems which face our species” as the Future Generations website claims. But is it right? Sure, eradicating diseases like cystic fibrosis and thalassemia may be a good thing but a “master race?” Improving future generations through genetic screening for higher intelligence and moral character? Can you screen for that? Regardless, is it ethical to select for particular traits, say, blond hair + blue eyes (shameful Hitler reference, sorry). I think Dr. Barron Lerner, a Columbia University medical historian hit the nail on the head: “If a society is so willing to screen aggressively to find these genes and then to potentially to have abort the fetuses, what does that say about the value of the lives of those people living with the disease?”
My mom highlighted a number of things in the articles and sticky-noted questions she had. Most of her questions asked what the author was talking about—genetic testing and embryo screening, which had little to no description of how these procedures were being done. At the very end, my clever madre stickey-noted, “wouldn’t there just be different mutations later on?” STOP. THINK. If the world eradicated the aforementioned inherited diseases, would there just be different, potentially worse mutations later on? Better yet, how would we test for them? Are we selecting for a master race or a race of potentially worse, undetectable mutations? What is considered a mutation worthy of abortion?
Looking at a personal example: Red hair. There’s less than 5% of natural redheads left in the world. Perhaps it’s our higher rate of anemia (losing iron to our hair?) or the need for a higher dose of anesthesia (survival of the fittest)? Regardless, in 2005, many scientists believed that by 2100 a natural redhead would be hard to come-by, if not extinct. UNTIL eugenics. Selecting for red hair? Selecting for anemia? I’m not saying I agree or disagree with this process. Eradicating inherited diseases sounds great but will it have more horrible consequences? Better yet, are we selecting for things without knowing how they’ll effect society as a whole? Will the world end up Blond haired and blue eyed like Hitler wanted?
You may be wondering if going into the depths of the cave can actually be bad for the creatures. Well, in reality it is. However, the tour guides do a wonderful job of letting people know where to walk and where not to walk. For example, there was some water we were able to walk through, but they did take us near water that was not allowed to be touched due to the unique species living in the water. The guides even ask people who may have been to other caves that have the white-nose syndrome to not go on the trip. As of now, Mammoth Cave bats do not have the syndrome that is killing their relatives. I think that in situations like that, people respect where they are. The guides also love the environment they are in and I think that if their system did not work, they probably would not still have the tour. It normally seems like people don't have respect for their environment until they see it hands-on.
Anyway, I found a cave diving video that I think is really cool. I want to see the entire episode! If you're a BBC fan, I think you'll enjoy it.
If you want more information on the biology of caves or the white-nose syndrome, check out:
I know it sounds crazy because what American-born female hates butterflies but keep in mind I'm a biology major and Ashland requires you take zoology (or botany) and this is forever my image of butterflies:
What you're looking at is a scanning electron microscope image of a pyralidae moth. Moths and butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera meaning their wings are covered with scales.(1) Both have similar physical appearance and life cycles, however moths are more active at night, typically more boring in color and tapered, straight antennae.
Almost all Lepidoptera have the coiled proboscis (seen above) as a feeding mechanism. The tube extends into the flower for sucking up nectar and is controlled by a sac inside the head. Through contraction and expansion (similar to the human diaphragm) the butterfly can suck up nectar.
If I hate them so much why am I researching them? Because Observations of a Nerd tackle my intrigue. A recent post as can be seen at the link at the bottom addressed the parasitic wasp, which if anyone reading this was in Evolution you'd know Dr. Greene made quite the to do over them. These wasps lay their eggs inside other animals which then hatch and grow, feeding on the host from the inside out. Finally, like something from alien they burst out of the host to go spread their evil. Two particular species mentioned Trichogramma brassicae and Trichogramma evanescens smell the chemicals used during butterfly mating to stalk and murder their prey. Butterflies secrete chemicals during mating to ward off other males from a recently impregnated female. These wasps sense those chemicals and stalk the butterflies to their egg location where they attack. The most amazing part is that they stalk so incredibly closely. They actually climb aboard the disgusting mouthparts of the butterfly and ride with them to their egg-stash. Clever little "spies" as they're popularly called. I guess it doesn't pay to have a long gangly-tongue?
Fast forward by fifteen minutes. There I was, sweating my Charlie Browns off. As my eyes started to feel like eggs frying on the sidewalk, I started wondering what possible benefit this legalized torture could possibly have. That was when I decided that I would use my fourth blog post to get some answers. Which was difficult to do, since the next morning I had a massive migraine. I blame the sauna.
First, I tried Youtube and found this subtly creepy video about sauna health benefits.
All he mentioned was that saunas are good for people with Arthritis and your immune system.
Since that wasn’t much help, I kept searching. Then I found this website by the North American Sauna Society.
They mention these health benefits:
- Improved circulation
- Lower blood pressure
- Cardiovascular health (gives your heart a mini-workout)
- Increased resistance to illness
- Relieves congestion
- Removes toxins and impurities
- Reduces pain from sunburn
- Relieves tension, stress, and mental fatigue
- Better and more restful sleep
- Burns calories
- Maintains clear and healthy skin
- Helps with kidney function
You should avoid using the sauna if you have any of these complications:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Skin condition
- Running a fever
- Inflammatory disease
- An injury
- Contagious disease
- Moderate sauna use is safe for pregnant women
- Sauna use will not cure a hangover (damnit!)
Well, that’s all I found. I see why people use the sauna now, but I think I prefer the hot tub, thanks.