journal.pmed.1001685.g001

On the PATH to a New Malaria Vaccine

It really hit me how hard summer has been when I started playing connect the dots in the shower. Mosquitos have bitten me everywhere from my shaggy head to my musky toes. Sure, some mosquitos leave behind annoying pricks on your skin, but their African cousins can leave you feeling worse than getting food poisoning from P.F. Chang’s. In reality, however, the latter of the two mosquitos might leave you with a different kind of P.F: Plasmodium falciparum – the prevailing cause of malaria in the world. Continue reading

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Real Life Iron Man Suits?

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In past articles, I’ve talked about everything ranging from the propulsion of the Iron Man suit to the supercomputer, J.A.R.V.I.S., that runs it. However, I’ve never talked about the suit as a whole. What is it that makes an Iron Man suit an Iron Man suit? There are some real-world exosuits being developed that are similar to the suit used in the Marvel films, but none come anywhere close to being as awe-inspiring as Tony Stark’s. First, it would probably make sense to mention a real-world analog to the Iron Man series of suits. Continue reading

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The Cure to High Blood Pressure, Obesity, and Eating Disorders?

Fruits and vegetables. Not everyone’s favorite foods,  but they provide significant health benefits and we are conditioned from a young age to eat them. Recently, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself: does eating fruits and veggies instead of meat and fish really help your health all that much?

So, this whole idea started on July 27th, when I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I really needed to change my diet. I decided that I was follow a (mostly) vegan diet because that seems like the best option (really, it can’t be too bad - you’re eating fruits and veggies). I downloaded an app on my phone that allows me to track my heart rate for about 10 seconds at a time to get an accurate reading and I have been tracking what I eat and the amount I've eaten.

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The Quest for Immortality

book of immortality jacket.jpg.size .xxlarge.letterbox 300x200 The Quest for Immortality
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Immortality: this simple concept seems to have haunted humanity for millennia. From the emperors of China to the famed tales of King Arthur to the searches for the Fountain of Youth, immortality seems to be the prize that kings have gone after for generations. Is it possible? If so, how do we go about it? Continue reading

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How did the Elements Get Their Names? Part I

So, how do the elements get their names? I can assure you that each and every one has its own unique story, but unfortunately I can’t fit all of the stories of the elements into a single article so here are the stories of some of the places with elements named after them.

 

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Think for a moment. What person, place, or thing has the most elements named after it. Believe it or not, four elements draw their name from the small town of Ytterby, Sweden. Now what could be so important about Ytterby that four elements would be named after it? As it turns out, this small mining town was the site where seven different elements were discovered. Sometime in the late 18th century, an ore called Yttria (also named after the city) was mined, and over the period of about one hundred years four new elements (Yttrium, Terbium, Erbium, and Ytterbium) were isolated from it. The elements Holmium (named after Stockholm), Thulium (named after the mythical land of Thule), and Gadolinium (named after John Gadolin) were also discovered at the mine, but it might have been overkill to name them for the town too. It seems a bit weird that so many undiscovered elements would end up in the same place, but there is an explanation. Many of these elements are members of the Lanthanide family (atomic numbers 57-70), and Lanthanides tend to clump together in the earth’s crust, so there are large clumps of them in certain places, such as Sweden.

 

The next place on our elemental roadmap is the state of California. California is actually one of the greatest places on the planet for scientific research, seeing that it contains numerous national labs and universities. It’s then no surprise that there are so many elements named after the state and facilities within it. To begin there is one element named after the state itself (Californium). Then, there are two named after the Lawrence National Labs in California (Berkelium and Livermorium for Berkeley and Livermore). These two labs have contributed a great amount of work towards the discovery of new elements. Also, Livermorium was named just in 2012 (just goes to show how the search for new elements is ongoing).

 

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The final element I will talk about is Polonium. Polonium was discovered by Marie Curie (a Polish Chemist), and was named after Poland, which was actually not a country at the time. Poland resides between some of the historical superpowers and often found itself annexed by one of them. This was an especially unfortunate time as it was under Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian partition. The naming of this element was intended to raise awareness about Poland’s lack of independence. It turned out that Polonium was one of the most toxic elements and can be incredibly lethal in doses as small as 10 micrograms. Accordingly, the “Save Poland” campaign was not incredibly successful.

 

There are certainly more elements named after places but this is an article, not a book. The elements take their names from all people, places, and things. Those were merely a few.

 

Sources

 

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ytterby-mine

“The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus

What You Need To Know About Ebola

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus

Let’s start with a simple question: What is Ebola? When we say Ebola, we are often referring to Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever caused by the Ebola virus. There are five known Ebola virus species; four of these can cause Ebola in humans. The most deadly and the most widely spread species out of these four is called Zaire Ebolavirus, which is also the most likely possible culprit for the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. [1][2] So how deadly is it exactly? There have been cases in which up to 90% of the infected people in an Ebola outbreak were killed. [3] Okay, now it sounds serious. Let’s find out how this devil spreads.

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Well, it’s not entirely clear how Ebola spreads right now. Some researchers believe that Ebola was first introduced to humans through close contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids, such as blood, secretions, organs, and so. However, we can be sure that human-to-human transmission occurs through similar actions by directly contacting bodily fluids of infected people or being exposed to surfaces contaminated with infected secretions. [3][4] Thankfully, there is no evidence so far to prove that Ebola is airborne, which means that we most likely won’t get infected by breathing the same air as an infected patient. Although Ebola isn’t capable of airborne transmission, a recent study has shown that the ebolavirus can travel from pigs to non-human primates without any contact. [5] Once a person gets infected, he will show flu-like symptoms in 2 to 21 days, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash and impaired kidney and liver function. Some people will also experience internal and external bleeding. Death usually occurs within 7 to 16 days after the first symptoms due to multiple organ failures if a patient doesn’t recover quickly. [5]

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Good news has come back from the Emory University hospital since these patients have arrived, with the hospital reporting that the patients’ conditions are getting better with the new treatment drug, ZMapp. However, this drug is still in an experimental stage. So the definitive treatment for this deadly disease may not have been found yet, but nonetheless, we shouldn’t panic over keeping Ebola patients in the US. For more information, check out Why Ebola Won’t Kill Us All? (http://thewannabescientist.com/why-ebola-wont-kill-us-all/ )

Citations:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebolavirus

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_West_Africa_Ebola_virus_outbreak#Virology

[3] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

[4] http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_disease

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I Scream For Ice Cream! But they are screams of agony because brain freezes hurt…

You’re sitting by the pool on a hot summer’s day with all of your friends. The sun is shining and that Popsicle in your hand is just what you need to cool off before jumping back into the water. It’s your favorite flavor, and you can’t help but eat it way too fast. Suddenly your perfect day transforms into a dark, panic-inducing nightmare. You feel the cold spread from your mouth up into your head as the dark clouds obscure the sun. It’s too late to stop it. The brain freeze is here. Dum. Dum. DUM…

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Arches National Park

Nature Did It Better Than The Romans

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(Musings from my summer earth studies trip with geologist and teacher John Schafer.)

Arches National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It certainly tops my list. It gets its name from the natural arches that formed there… in the middle of the Southern Utah desert. When I say arches, I mean giant geologic features that span hundreds of feet across and stand as high as buildings. So, what carved these arches out of solid rock and what does it have to do with ancient Rome? Continue reading

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Teenage Angst? It’s Not Your Fault!

teens 300x214 Teenage Angst? It’s Not Your Fault!
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Teenagers are not known for being the best decision makers. Often impulsive and moody, teens get a bad rap with adults for their erratic behavior.  Whether it’s getting a tattoo they may regret when older, or damaging their ears with loud music, adults often question, “what were you thinking?!” But studies show it’s not what teens think, it’s how they think that attributes to the almost universal teen angst and rebellion phase. Holden Caulfield, this one’s for you! Continue reading

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Music is Power

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Across physical, cultural, and even temporal barriers, music serves as a lingua franca in its ability to touch, inspire, or soothe universally. If you play a sport or compete in some fashion, you have likely experienced and harnessed music's ability provide a brief reprieve from the world - a place where you can simply close your eyes and let the stress ebb away. In the span of a few minutes, if you just lose yourself in the music, in the rhythmic beat and lilting words, you can feel the change from nervous and jittery to confident and determined. And that is the power of music; it empowers you. Continue reading

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Is writing on your skin bad for your health?

Amongst the general public, there exists a notion that writing on your skin can cause health problems and illnesses. Chances are that you have probably heard this statement at least once in your life (probably from your mom). But is this belief accurate or true in any way, and where did it come from? Is writing on your skin with a pen going to harm you or detract from your wellbeing? To find out, we’ll have to look inside these writing utensils and analyze their chemical compositions. Continue reading

We're not just basic.