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!

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.

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? 🙂

EdTech

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?

Nature’s Fastest Marathon Runner

Some animals are good at running, us humans being one of them. But most animals while they can run fast they often don’t run far. Or if they run far, they don’t run fast. One exception outside of humans is the ostrich. The ostrich can run up to 43 mph at their fastest. When they run further than 20 miles, their average speed drops to 30 mph. The average stride of an ostrich is 10 to 16 feet, one of the longest of any bird not to mention animal.

The African ostrich is the fastest, clocking speeds between 60 to 70 km per hour which allows this species to finish a full marathon in about 40 minutes rather than the two plus hours needed by a human. So how do ostriches compare to humans?

http://www.scienceinschool.org/2011/issue21/ostrich

When compared to humans, ostriches have the majority of their musculature located very high on the thigh bone and hip, whereas the lower swinging elements of their legs are moved by long, mass-reducing tendons. Tendons are very light and aid in long steps along with increased step frequency. Just don’t think that tendons make these birds tender. They tend to run when they feel threatened, but are known to attack when needed especially when there’s an egg involved. (largest egg = tastiest egg)

Random Jen fact: I did an entire school project on ostriches in 3rd grade and absolutely loved it. What’s your favorite animal? What’s your favorite running animal? Did you even consider the ostrich a runner before this post?

Bill Nye the Science Guy

I grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on the Disney channel. It was a combination of this show, my middle school science teacher (Ms. Jen Baum), and my first pets (hamster & dog) that contributed to my passion for science and animals. I have fond memories of Bill Nye and his quirky ways of explaining different topics of science. Each episode added to my knowledge base. As I grew, so did my interest and intrigue in science and the way the world worked. The most interesting topics to me centralized around biology and animal science, which led me down the path to obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science with a Chemistry minor. And eventually a Master’s degree in Biology.

And now, somehow Bill Nye has gotten even better with age. (also he looks nearly the same to me: does this guy age?) Watching and listening to him and Bernie Sanders brings hope to my heart. Hope for our future and our planet that I’ve developed a deep love for. I love listening to Bill Nye and his viewpoints since they are still just as relevant, if not more so now than they were back in the 90’s when I watched him on Disney. Another nice thing is that now he’s free to say what he really thinks, and doesn’t have to hold anything back due to his audience being children. Also, I’m older and can understand more in regards to what he’s saying.

He has a new show Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix that I recently started watching. While I don’t know what the show will bring to me, I look forward to learning more about science, our world, and beyond. And I hope that in addition to learning, that it brings back happy memories from my childhood growing up with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

What are your thoughts on Bill Nye? Did you watch his show in the 90s? Have you seen his new show? Do you have any qualms about Bill and his opinions? Do you even science, bro?