Solar Eclipse and your eyeballs

Unless you live in a pineapple under the sea, you were likely aware of the solar eclipse last week on August 21st, 2017. As the eclipse approached, and even during it, there were many warnings to not stare at the sun. NASA-approved eyewear was provided to almost everyone who wanted to see the eclipse. For me, my work building was handing the eyewear out for free. Thanks to this, I was able to experience the eclipse without damaging my eyes. And I was enamored with the sun and the moon and the stars. My love for everything science grew that day.

There was still a concern for people not listening and looking at the sun anyways. Some people may have thought since the moon was mostly blocking the sun that perhaps the sun wouldn’t do as much damage. This is, of course, false. But I never imagined people would put sunscreen on their eyeballs in order to avoid sun damage to their eyes.

Doctors in California and Virginia reported patients complaining of applying sunscreen to their eyes. These individuals applied the sunscreen because they didn’t have the NASA-approved eyewear.

“One of my colleagues at moonlight here stated yesterday that they had patients presenting at their clinic that put sunscreen on their eyeball, and presented that they were having pain and they were referred to an ophthalmologist,” Trish Patterson, a nurse at Prestige Urgent Care in Redding, Calif., said.

It only takes seconds of staring directly at the sun to cause lasting damage to the retina. Please do not apply sunscreen to your eyeballs. If you don’t have the appropriate eyewear to look at the sun, don’t look at the sun. I’m hoping for future eclipses that we can learn from these situations and practice better sun safety techniques.

Did you see the eclipse? If so, I hope you were safe about it. Post up your pictures of the eclipse if you have any!

The next solar eclipse for North America will be April 8, 2024. Plan accordingly!

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Earth is changing

By the end of this century, the global temperature is likely to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This scary conclusion was reached by two different studies using different methods.

One study used statistical analysis to show that there is a 95% chance that Earth will warm more than 2 degrees at century’s end, and a 1% chance that it’s below 1.5 C. “The likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0-4.9 [degrees Celsius] and our median forecast is 3.2 C,” said Adrian Raftery, author of the first study. “Our model is based on data which already show the effect of existing emission mitigation policies. Achieving the goal of less than 1.5 C warming will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.”

The second study analyzed past emissions of greenhouse gases and the burning of fossil fuels to show that even if humans suddenly stopped burning fossil fuels now, Earth will continue to heat up two more degrees by 2100. More realistically, if emissions continue for 15 more years, Earth’s temperature could rise as much as 3 degrees. “Even if we would stop burning fossil fuels today, then the Earth would continue to warm slowly,” said Thorsten Mauritsen, author of the second study. “It is this committed warming that we estimate.”

These similar results paint a grim future. We’re in deeper than we originally thought. But not all is lost, as the fight against global warming is currently occurring. But we have to up our game. We need to start installing clean energy and walk away from our old polluting ways. If we don’t do this, we have to start preparing for many severe consequences for a much hotter world.

“There are only two realistic paths toward avoiding long-run disaster: increased financial incentives to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and greatly increased funding for research that will lead to at least partial technological fixes,” said Dick Startz, economist and co-author of the second study. “Neither is free. Both are better than the catastrophe at the end of the current path.”

Silver linings are hard to find in climate change studies, but we may have one as long as solar power continues to plummet in cost. But our governments have to take full advantage of the breakthroughs our engineers have produced.

How do you feel about global warming and climate change? Are you willing to change your source of power to try and lessen the damage done? Leave your thoughts below.

Blending in

As the diagnoses of Autism increase, an interesting trend has been noticed. More boys are being diagnosed than girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls. Boys appear to be more vulnerable to the disorder, but the gender gap may not be as wide as it appears. Girls can be better at blending in, according to Dr. Louis Kraus, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who specializes in autism.

While girls try to fit in, boys tend to be more isolative. This makes it easier to spot autism at an earlier age in boys, whereas girls may not be diagnosed until later on because their symptoms don’t stand out. This can be hindering since girls then may not get the early intervention that they need.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder, characterized by repetitive, compulsive behaviors, a lack of interest in social interaction and little or no eye contact. There is no medical test to diagnose autism. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

Girls appear to have mastered what some call “social camouflaging” according to Amanda Gulsrud who’s a clinical director of the Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental Clinic and University of California, LA. She develops school interventions for children with autism. During this study done by UCLA looking at children with and without ASD, the autistic boys stand out as being different. They were very isolated from the other boys, who were in a large group playing sports. The boys with autism were the ones “circling the perimeter of the yard, or off by the tree in the back.”

Girls with autism, on the other hand, don’t stand out as much. They stuck close enough to the other girls to look as if they were socially connected, but in reality they really weren’t. They were flitting in and out of that social connection. Girls with autism tend to be quiet and “behave more appropriately” according to Marisela Huerta, a psychologist with the Weill Cornell Medical College.

Currently, there is a NIH-funded study on girls with autism focusing on genes, brain function and behavior through childhood and adolescence. Preliminary findings suggest there are differences in the brains of girls and boys with the disorder. Brain imaging shows that autistic girls seem to have less of a disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information. Girls may be more likely to understand social expectations, even if they can’t fully meet them.

A late diagnosis of autism is a setback for any child according to Kraus. Research shows the earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better the outcome. There are many academic and community programs geared to help autistic teens and young adults catch up on their social development. For example, PEERS at UCLA.

What do you think about this research? Do you have an autistic child, teen or young adult in your life? Do you notice differences between autistic boys and girls? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

A lot of this information was found via this article HERE.

Girl power: bending the gender rules

There’s a new rule at the Shaolin Epo Wushu College: girls are allowed to attend as well. But this isn’t just any school: not only do they have to pass their exams with flying colors, they also have to follow a very strict Kung Fu training schedule.

The school gives children a chance to learn as well. There are about 8,000 students, some as young as 3. At first the school only allowed boys, but now it allows girls as well. Shaolin Epo schoolgirls have no time to sip tea and play with dolls though. Instead, they train with fists, swords, daggers, and other weapons everyday. The girls are treated the same as the boys, everyone lives in the same Spartan conditions. Many students live in the same room, meals are very modest, and there’s only one parental visit a week. Girls and boys alike have to toughen up and focus on their goal of becoming a skilled warrior.

Life in the school can be hard, but these girls fight just as well as the boys. The bar is set very high and there are no exceptions for those who fall behind. Nevertheless, despite the hurdles along the way and the unrelenting schedule, every girl soldiers on determined to make her parents, teachers, and country proud.

I love that girls are being given the same chances as boys. Gender equality makes me happy. Anything you can do I can do better. Did you know that I trained in Praying Mantis Kung Fu for 6 years? I recently left my school but plan on finding a new school after I run the Chicago Marathon. I feel like Kung Fu teaches so much more than just how to defend yourself.

Watch the documentary below and let me know what you think about it. Have you practiced martial arts? If so, which type? Would you send your kid to this school? Or if you’re like me, would you attend this school?

Elephant Rescued After Being Swept to Sea

Did you know that elephants enjoy swimming? Despite being large, they are buoyant in the water and swim fully submerged. They use their trunks as a snorkel as they wade around. Elephants are considered the best swimmers of any land mammal- perhaps excluding trained human swimmers.

But the other day an elephant got swept out to sea in Sri Lanka after trying to wade across what was supposed to be a safe lagoon in his sanctuary. Thankfully, the navy saw him struggling during their routine patrol. The elephant appeared to be tired and lost. It took twelve hours, but the navy officials were able to successfully guide the elephant back to the shore and to safety.

While elephants can swim for fairly long periods of time, they will tire if not able to rest. Navy officials intervened, claiming the swimming would have caused the elephant to burn too much energy to survive and the prolonged exposure to salt water could have damaged the elephant’s skin. What could have been disastrous, was thankfully avoided.

Asian elephants are classified as endangered and have faced significant threats from logging and loss of habitat. Most males and females in this species lack noticeable tusks, which may decrease poaching, but they are still hunted for their meat and leather. Currently, elephants are protected under Sri Lanka law, where killing one results in steep penalties.

Be sure to check out the video of the rescue above. Let me know what you think about this story. Do you like elephants? Do you like learning about animals? I love animals as you will see throughout this blog.

Amelia Earhart may have survived

Last week, a team of investigators uncovered a photo that might be Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. The photo is of them in the Marshall Islands under Japanese custody after they made an emergency landing while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Up until this discovery, the story was that Earhart and Noonan crashed over the Pacific on their around-the-world flight and didn’t survive, as their bodies and the plane were never found. But this new development suggests that may not have been the case.

The History Channel had a documentary that debuted a few days ago “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” in which experts explain how they identified what is very likely Earhart and Noonan in the fuzzy photo that’s never been seen before. For Noonan, it’s the sharp, receding hairline, nose and teeth; for Earhart, it’s the tomboyish haircut and the fact that she’s wearing pants. We have her unconventional, menswear-inspired style to thank for making it more clear that it may be her in the photo.

A photo found in the National Archives that historians believe shows Amelia Earhart (sitting on the dock, center) and Fred Noonan (standing at left) in the Marshall Islands after their plane crashed nearby in the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
Photo: Courtesy of Les Kinney/U.S. National Archives

Clothes played a major role in Earhart’s life and career: she designed the jumpsuits she wore in the cockpit and had her own label, Amelia Earhart Fashions, which financed her flight expeditions and consisted of practical, affordable, aviation-inspired dresses, suits, trench coats, and separates. The clothes were sold at Macy’s and Marshall Field’s and may have contributed to the beginning of “athleisure.”

You can see some of her signature looks below. In 1934, the Fashion Designers of America named her one of the country’s best-dressed women. What do you think of her fashion? Revolutionary? Would you wear clothes like this? They say all fashion trends come back, and we’re seeing similar styles at the recent couture shows.

I wonder if this will help us finally bury the life of Earhart. Likely not since her life was so unique and interesting.


Science of Exercise

A recent study has shown how exercise benefits the body on a cellular level. What’s even cooler is that it found what type of exercise that’s best for boosting cell health. Have you heard of High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)? If you have, you likely know that it’s one of the best ways to train. Now with recent research, we know it has even more benefits on the cellular level.

Published in Cell Metabolism (2017; 25[3], 581-92), the study included 36 men and 36 women categorized as “young” (18 to 30 years old) or “older” (65 to 80 years old). Each participant was assigned to one of three training programs for 12 weeks: HIIT on an indoor bike; strength training with weights; or a combination of both. Scientists took muscle biopsies from the volunteers (plucked some samples) and then compared the results with those from a sedentary control group.


Data showed that the exercise groups experienced improvements in cellular function and in the ability of mitochondria to generate energy. This adds to the evidence that exercise slows the aging process at a cellular level. Muscle mass and insulin sensitivity improved with all three training protocols, but outcomes did vary. “HIIT revealed a more robust increase in gene transcripts than other exercise modalities, particularly in older adults,” according to the authors. HIIT increased mitochondrial capacity by 49% in the young group and 69% in the older group.

“HIIT reversed many age-related differences in the proteome, particularly of mitochondrial proteins in concert with increased mitochondrial protein synthesis.”

For best benefit though, a combination of HIIT and strength training is still recommended since HIIT alone doesn’t increase strength and muscle mass like the strength training protocol does.

What does this all mean for you? The take home message is for aging adults that supervised HIIT is best since it confers the most benefits both metabolically and at the molecular level. This is all according to K. Sreekumaran Nair, MD, PhD from the study linked above.

Do you partake in HIIT training? What about strength training? Do you notice benefits from it? While you may not feel your cells changing, they are the building blocks to living things. And once again: do you even science, bro? 🙂


This past week was the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2017 which was held in sunny San Antonio, TX. Among the trending topics at the conference was coding in the classroom. There’s a movement called Girls Who Code led by Reshma Saujani, who was one of the keynote speakers this past week. Tech jobs are among the fastest growing ion the country, yet girls are being left behind. Girls Who Code’s mission is to help close the gender gap in technology.

Another cool note to mention is that Chicagoland’s very own Jennie Magiera was one of the other keynote speakers. She is the chief innovation officer at Des Plaines Public Schools in Chicago and the author of Courageous EdventuresShe believes that despite the many challenges facing schools today, every classroom can be a place for what she calls “edventures:” student-centered, passion-based experiential learning. With this in mind, Magiera’s work centers on acknowledging problems and finding innovative ways to navigate them, freeing up teachers and students to dive into classroom edventures.

Overall, a successful conference. The future of education and technology is exciting as always. What was your favorite part of this past week? Were you following the talks on twitter like I was? #ISTE17 in case you didn’t catch it. Do you work in the field of education? If so, do you feel like things are changing for the better or worse?

Committing to yourself

The other day was the longest day of the year (June 21st) and it was also World Giraffe Day. Something about long necks and long days making sense and therefore there’s a holiday for that. You’re welcome.

I saw many posts regarding not only giraffes but also that people had no excuse to not exercise and put themselves first on the longest day of the year. With the prolonged daylight, there was ample time to get outside and get moving. This prompted something in my mind and heart, though. People need to commit to themselves and to their well-being.

Most of the time when you hear commitment you think relationship or marriage. I challenge you to think of yourself first. Yes, your significant other or spouse is important, but so are you. Don’t let anyone else determine your happiness and health. My newest student isn’t a typical one. While she is studying to take the ACT, she is far from a High School student. She is in her 40’s and has a Master’s degree, but needs a certain ACT score to further her career in the education field. While she’s not typical, she is an inspiration to me and everyone around her. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams and your career goals. I love how committed she is to her dream job.

Who are you committed to? What are you committed to? Are you happy? Do you rely on yourself for your happiness?

And while you’re here, here are some love locks seen in Oak Park. From the committed relationships. I wonder how many of these are still holding strong?

Exercise and creativity

Physically active people can improve their self-expression, self-confidence and social interaction compared with more sedentary people. Exercise leads to better brain health, less obesity and less stress. This applies to people of all ages, including children and young adults. Regular exercise for children and young adults is important as that is when people start habits, good or bad. While I am a tutor, I do recommend my students exercise as it can help them study for their exams and perform better on test day.


While exercise is physical, it affects overall health and well being more than just the physical gains. Artists facing roadblocks in their creative process can be benefited by exercise. Exercise can help them open their minds and see their art from a different perspective or mindset. And what’s even better than just exercising? Exercising outside. Science supports the idea of human’s innate desire to connect with nature. Several studies have shown a correlation between being outside and feeling emotionally, mentally and physically better.

Being outside almost provides a distraction from everything else going on. Exercising outside can definitely lead to great things. Do you exercise outside? If so, what’s your favorite type of exercise to do outside?