Opportunity, Mars’s Exploration Rover Just Reached Perseverance Valley

Perseverance Valley

NASA’s Opportunity just reached the main target of its current mission, the Perseverance Valley.

A NASA statement recently announced that the aerospace agency’s Mars Exploration Rover, the Opportunity, just reached the primary target of its current mission, the Perseverance Valley. The research team extended the rover’s current two-year mission so it could take a closer look at this interesting location.

The “Perseverance Valley” is a fluid-carved valley which was incised on the inert slope at the rim of a vast crater on Mars. Opportunity started getting close to the area in early May and has since started beaming back data.

Next Target: The Perseverance Valley

Images taken by the rover’s camera offer a better look at the different areas of this valley. Previously, researchers had to work with images captured from orbit above Mars. Now, they can start turning to the high-resolution images taken by the Opportunity.

“The science team is really jazzed at starting to see this area up close and looking for clues to help distinguish among multiple hypothesis about how the valley formed,” stated Matt Golombek.

He is an Opportunity Project Scientist and part of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Golombek points out that research has yet to determine how the Perseverance Valley came to exist.

This was carved into the rim of the Endeavour Crater, some billions of years ago, by a process still unidentified. Scientists put forth and are analyzing a number of possible factors. For example, water could have helped shaped this valley.

Or it could have been the result of a debris flow. As water lubricated a mix of boulders and mud, this may have helped form a path that later developed into a valley.

Perseverance Valley may have even appeared as the result of wind erosion, a much drier process than the other variants.

Now, Opportunity’s primary target for this mission is to try and determine which was the most likely cause. It will do so by gathering data from any of the remaining evidence. Scientists hope that this information will help them determine the most likely formation process.

Image Source: NASA

Cotton Swabs Lead To A Lot Of Visits To The ER

box of cotton swabs

A new study shows the high number of ER visits caused by incorrectly used cotton swabs.

According to recent reports, what is one item almost everyone has in their medicine cabinet that they don’t use correctly? That can even be dangerous, leading to visits to the ER, unnecessary injuries, and even permanent deafness, in the worst cases? Most readers may guess a pill or prescription medicine. They would be wrong. The answer is cotton swabs.

Cotton Swabs Lead to Quite some Visits to the Emergency Room

In an article in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers assert that cotton swabs account for about 34 emergency room visits a day. The study is based on data gathered in between 1990 to 2010.

In a statement, Kris Jatana, M.D. and one of the study authors, explains that ear-wax is a naturally occurring product of the body. Excess earwax can be cleaned off using a swab, if necessary, or a wet soft cloth. However, no object should ever be inserted into the ear canal.
Many people have a misconception about the use of cotton swabs and utilize them by inserting these directly into the ear. Consumers are advised to read the health advisory carefully on the packaging of these everyday household items. In doing so, they should note the wording used. Q-tips, one of the most well-known brand, for example, say that the product should never be inserted in the ear.

Most children involved in the study that had to visit the ER were under 8. They were taken to the hospital as they were suffering from perforated ear drums. This is a dangerous condition that can affect hearing permanently.

Still, this is only one type of injury that can result from the excessive use of cotton swabs when cleaning the ears. There is the danger of damaging the canal. Or perhaps even leaving a bit of cotton in the ear drum, where it can cause an abscess.

Image Source: Wikimedia

NASA Just Found A Nearby Planetary System, All Thanks To SOFIA

planetary system

SOFIA, one of NASA’s associates, helped find a nearby planetary system, very similar to ours.

A NASA-affiliated telescope project captured hyper-detailed images that reveal a nearby planetary system remarkably similar to our own, only much younger at only 500 million-years-old.

Parked 10.5 light years away, in the constellation Eridanus, is a star called Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri, for short. All signs point to it being a doppelgänger of the Sun, complete with a similar planetary scheme.

Epsilon Eridani: Our Planetary System, Only Younger?

So, why do scientists believe this nearby planetary system mirrors the Solar System? For starters, a “Sun” seemingly anchors both areas. Moreover, the cluster is home to a Jupiter-esque planet that orbits the same distance from eps Eri as Jupiter does from ou Sun.
It also features an asteroid belt, like Jupiter. Additionally, the Epsilon Eridani architecture includes a comet belt that appears to hold the same properties as the Kuiper Belt, which sits on the far side of Neptune.
SOFIA, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, is a modern scientific marvel. It is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to accommodate a 2.5-meter telescope. This is specially developed to observe long infrared wavelengths.Previously, scientists relied on feedback from NASA’s Spitzer telescope that featured a 33.5-inch lens diameter. Thanks to it, they were able to cull significant data from Spitzer. Still, SOFIA’s large 100-inch lens allows researchers to observe details with greater precision.

Astronomers have been studying eps Eri since 2004. The last major news about the system came in 2009. This touched on dust and debris clusters that presumably formed in the wake of comet collisions and planet formation.

Researchers are confident that Epsilon Eridani will give insight into some of our still unanswered questions. For example, “How and when, exactly, do planets form?”. Or “In what order do planets take shape in a galactic system?”

Kate Su, whose research team is studying eps Eri at the University of Arizona, summed up the simple, yet fascinating, findings, opining the following.
“It really is impressive how esp Eri, a much younger version of our Solar System, is put together like ours.”
Image Source: Wikimedia

A Pod Of Killer Whales Just Become Famous For Its Killing Spree

killer whales

A large pod of killer whales attacked a gray whale calf, launching a killing spree that’s been baffling scientists.

A large pack of orcas attacked a gray whale calf on April 20th, launching a killing spree that has baffled scientists. Since their first attempt, the group of killer whales killed at least five gray whale calves near Monterey Bay, California.

This Pod Of Killer Whales Already Made Over 5 Victims

Nancy Black, a marine biologist and co-owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch, calls the killing spree “unprecedented”. In an interview to the media, she says that she hasn’t seen anything like it in 30 years of experience. She also filmed a recent attack.

The killing is unusual, both in the size of the killer whale pod and in its efficiency. Ms. Black says that she witnessed the pack separate a gray whale calf from its mother in about 20 minutes. Such a feat would normally take hours. Although the first attack consisted of as many as 33 orcas, usually, such pods are made up of 5-10 killer whales.

Another surprising detail: pods of killer whales typically move in and out of the bay area. But in this case, they have held their position, presumably lying in wait for more gray whales and other prey.

Gray whales typically migrate 10,000-12,000 miles on a round trip, from lagoons in Mexico to their feeding grounds in the Arctic Seas. These attacks are preventing some from reaching their destination. However, one gray whale mother successfully defended her calf against the pod.

A reason for the attacks has yet to be established. Ms. Black theorizes that the orcas may be teaching their young to hunt since the youngest in the pod is not yet six months old. They could also be binge-feeding.

Whatever the reason, these killer whales likely won’t stop anytime soon. Since gray whales typically continue to migrate through May, they will have no shortage of prey.

Image Source: Wikimedia

The Melting Antarctica Could Have A High Impact On California

california coast

The melting Antarctica will most likely have a higher impact on California than on any other state according to a new study

Late last week, California authorities released a new report on the rising sea levels. This showed that the melting Antarctica will most likely have a higher impact on California than on any other state. Possibly bigger than even the world average.

As the water levels will rise, the Golden state could start losing its iconic beaches. According to this latest report, some of its most important infrastructures could be affected as well.

The California Coast Could Be “In The Bull’s Eye” Of Rising Sea-Levels

The new report on the effects of the warming global weather and rising water levels was released on April 26th. Research was carried out by a group part of the California Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team.

It is not the first study produced by the working group. An initial report came out in 2010 and was then updated in 2013. John Laird that a newer one was nonetheless needed. The updated projections and more advanced science on sea-level rise required such an action. Laird is a council chairman and also the California Natural Resources Agency Secretary.

This new research concluded the following. The melting of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet will affect the Golden state more than any other such event.

“For every foot of global sea-level rise caused by the loss of ice in West Antarctica, sea-level will rise approximately 1.25 feet along the California coast.”

Recently released studies on the matter show that the both Antarctica and Greenland’s rate of ice loss are on the rise. Many expect this to become a primary contributor to the worldwide sea-level rise.

As it is, the Council will start holding workshops. These will take place throughout spring and summer, and will focus on this research. They will also take comments, and even create a draft proposal for a new environmental policy, one that could be approved by next January.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Report Shows That The Antarctica Penguin Population Is Shrinking

antarctica penguin population

Scientists estimate that the current Antarctica penguin population stands at around 12 million.

Scientists estimate that the current Antarctica penguin population stands at around 12 million. While that may seem like a high number, it has some specialists concerned.

They are quite convinced that it is not enough, and that the local populations are declining. Almost certainly, recent population die-offs can be connected to climate change, and as the Law of Natural Selection would determine, adaptability seems key to which penguins are surviving.

The five major species of penguins in Antarctica are the emperor, chinstrap, macaroni, Gentoo, and Adelie. Each has different feeding, nesting, and mating habits. As such, all of these species is being affected differently by the changes happening on and around the Antarctic continent.

Antarctica Penguin Population Numbers Are Shifting 

The lead researcher, Ron Naveen, has been counting penguins for thirty years. All in all, he has spent six years of his life on this icy continent. He believes that the Antarctica penguin population, along with the polar bear, may be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change and its effects on our planet’s polar regions.
Adelie and chinstrap penguins seem to be facing the largest decline. Some scientists believe the lower population numbers are due to their dependence on krill instead of fish as their primary food source. The krill populations are decreasing as well.
Meanwhile, the types of fish that the other penguins feed on seem to be holding steady. The Gentoo species seems to be handling this change particularly well. There is also a difference in where these animals mate and nest.
Emperor and Adelie penguins raise their young all across the continent. The other species are mostly tied to the northern areas of the Antarctic Peninsula. This peninsula has probably seen some of the most drastic effects of climate change. These include the breaking of the Larson A and B ice shelves. Now, it also means the imminent cleavage of Larson C.
Image Source: Wikimedia

Choline, An Essential Nutrient, Can Increase Heart Problem Risks?

choline egg yolk

Choline is an essential nutrient for the body but can also come with some health risks.

Choline or C5H14NO is an essential nutrient that helps the body utilize fats and cholesterol. Specifically, it stops fats from accumulating in the liver and helps them get into the cells. C5H14NO is necessary for the health of the liver, the kidneys and the protective myelin sheathing around the nerve cells.

A 1983 study seemed to link C5H14NO to heart disease. Dietary choline comes in the form of phosphatidylcholine, or lecithin. Some medical researchers believe that when it reaches the gut, the bacteria there turn it into C5H14NO and a gas called trimethylamine.

The latter is then sent to the liver. This detoxifies it and turns it into a compound called trimethylamine oxide, or TMAO. It’s this latter, the researchers claim, that causes heart problem risks.

Now, a new research from Cleveland Clinic specialists took a further look at the effects of C5H14NO. Study results were released in a paper in the Circulation journal.

New Study Links Choline To The Increase In Blod Cloths

The study involved 18 volunteers and was led by Dr. Stanley Hazen. All the research participants were given choline supplements or 500 mg on a daily basis. Reportedly, after a month, the blood of the participants was more likely to clot.

This was determined as the team analyzed the volunteers’ TMAO levels. These were seen to have a ten-fold increase. At least when compared to their levels before the study. Dr. Hazen stated that the TMAO probably “supercharges” the platelet function. More exactly:

“What is clear from this study is if you increase the choline in your diet, the TMAO level goes up and that changes your platelet function.”

However, there are still many variables that must be taken into account. For example, the team stated that vegan or vegetarian participants had lower choline levels even after taking the supplements. This is because C5H14NO is more common in meats, eggs, and dairy. It is also abundant in foods such as liver, red meats, or egg yolks, among others.

Also, the research team pointed out the following facts. Taking the supplements did not actually increase the participants’ risk of heart problems. However, it did raise their TMAO and their risk of developing blood clots. The researchers stated that their study is based on a small number of participants and was not that long. Not enough to determine a link between choline and heart disease.

As it is, more studies on the matter are needed. Choline is still an essential nutrient as it was shown that, in low levels, it does actually lead to heart problems, among others. Still, the team states that people should not consume excessive C5H14NO. The substance can be naturally taken in from foods, and supplements should be used only if prescribed by the doctor.

Image Source: FreeGreatPicture

A Recent Study Offers New Data On Brain Stimulation

brain stimulation presentation

A study from University of Pennsylvania researchers brought came with new data on the brain stimulation treatment.

To date, an effective solution for memory loss hasn’t been identified. As it is, a recent study from University of Pennsylvania researchers has sparked new life into a brain stimulation treatment previously disputed as only marginally beneficial.

The study, published in Current Biology, brings the world one step closer to solving memory loss in patients with epilepsy, brain trauma, or dementia.

It’s All in the Timing of the Brain Stimulation

This research was part of the Department of Defense’s Restoring Active Memory initiative. The goal of the four-year program is to develop an implantable device capable of restoring memory function.

While this study targeted and was completed for epilepsy patients, the DOD got involved due to the memory loss problems exhibited by soldiers who suffered traumatic head injuries.

The research team examined the process of deep brain stimulation using implanted electrodes. Previous attempts with this method showed mixed results. In some cases, it improved memory. However, the same pulses also worsened the recall is some of the instances. This study cleared up the confusion by proving that the effectiveness depends on the timing.

When the electric stimulation was delivered during a memory loss moment, the patients’ memory actually benefited from it. At the same time, when their memory was functioning well and they went through with the procedure, the electrical impulses seemed to impair their recall. As such, the team determined that the deep brain stimulation improved the memory function only if administered at the right moment.

This research could bring the “closed loop” treatment one step forward towards being used. A closed loop system of implanted electrodes works by monitoring the brain function in memory areas. As it does so, it also delivers a pulse. But only when the function is low. These sensitive systems could help bring the subtle difference needed for memory improvement.

This study could represent a turning point in neuroscience. The puzzle of the deep brain stimulation’s complicated nature could be one step closer to clarification. More research is needed to distil this concept into an actual therapy.

Image Source: Flickr

What Is Adult ADHD And What Are Its Signs?

adult adhd sign

Adult ADHD is a mental health condition characterized by difficulty maintaining attention.

Adult ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by difficulty maintaining attention. Currently, it affects more than 3 million people in the United States each year.
Since the cardinal symptoms of ADHD include trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior, Adult ADHD has a profound impact on life activities. Persons with this disorder report relationship difficulties and a poor work performance. They are characterized as being impulsive and having a risk-taking behavior.

Brief Account of Adult ADHD

Some problems linked to inattention include making careless mistakes, having trouble organizing activities, and losing necessary materials. Many adults attribute such difficulties to a lack of energy, forgetfulness or other issues.

These are also erroneously associated with an advancing age. Some have even engineered their lives to avoid activities requiring a high degree of focus. Other adults have underlying medical issues such as untreated diabetes or thyroid issues that make completing tasks difficult.

For these reasons, consulting with a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or other professionals with specialized ADHD training is of particular importance. In an adult, hyperactivity can take the form of fidgeting, interrupting during conversations, or restlessness.

Between 10% and 60% of children become adults with ADHD. Those who have this condition and are not diagnosed until adulthood must have exhibited inattentive or impulsive behavior before age 12 to receive a formal diagnosis of ADHD as an adult. Although a variety of factors, ranging from gluten sensitivity to parenting techniques, have been blamed for ADHD, a recent study has linked it to brain structure differences. This was determined by using medical imaging.

Adult ADHD is a relatively common condition that is completely treatable with talk therapy, medication or, most often, a combination approach. If you think that either a loved one or yourself are affected, you need to see a licensed specialist for screening and a possible treatment.

Image Source: Flickr

New Study Claims That Running Can Prolong The Life Expectancy

people running

A new study claims that running can allegedly help prolong the life expectancy by around 3 years.

A new study claims that running can allegedly help prolong one’s life. The researchers state that only two hours of such an exercise per week can help expand one’s lifespan with about three years. Reportedly, neither the speed nor the mileages of the run will matter.

The new research was carried out by Iowa State University scientists. They published their results in the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. For their study, the team re-analyzed information and data gathered by previous researchers carried out at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas some three years ago.

These found that running on a weekly basis for some 5 to 10 minutes every day at about less than 6 miles per hour can reduce the mortality risk by even up to 30 percent.

Running Is Reportedly Beneficial Even If Performed At A Slow, Or Rather Short Rate

Now, this new study echoes and reinstates some of the original findings and also comes with new information. For example, they found that the actual pace or mileage of a run do not actually matter. Instead, just the physical activity in itself is enough to reduce the risk of premature death. This was estimated to fall by about 40 percent.

The research team then introduced factors such as drinking, smoking, or various health problems. Nonetheless, the findings still ‘held true’ even in such cases.

Based on the previously gathered data, the team also went to establish that runners engaging in such a physical activity for 2 hours every week, could significantly expand their life expectancy. This could grow by three years or even more. Also, this would translate into less than 6 months of actual running over a 40-years period.

However, people should not expect a further addition in years, no matter how much they run. The team also stated that are as yet unsure what actually cause these benefits, or of why running can extend the life expectancy. They offered the lifestyle as a potential reason, but more research on the matter is still needed.

Image Source: Pexels