The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones

Yikes!

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.

Source: The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones

Hallie’s story runs on the front page of the N&O

Hallie was featured on the front page of the N&O, 15 Nov 2017


The story of the new environmental lawsuit that Hallie is participating in (along with two other teens) ran on the front page of the News and Observer today. Pretty cool to see that.

This is at least the second time she’s been featured on the N&O’s front page, if not the third. The first time was when she was still a guest of the WakeMed NICU.

Rowland, the astrophotographer

Messier 33 galaxy, by Rowland Archer

My friend and former boss Rowland Archer has a hobby of astrophotography. He’s built up quite a collection of stunning photographs that he’s taken from the little observatory he’s build in his backyard outside of Durham. Here’s one of the latest photos he’s shared, of the Milky Way’s nearest neighboring galaxy, Messier 33.

Says Rowland:

This is Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy, so named because it is in the constellation Triangulum and was the 33th object discovered by Charles Messier – who was a comet hunter and famously compiled a list of “darn, another fuzzy thing that’s not a comet!” Ironically, his list of stuff to avoid is now one of the most popular list of things to observe! M33 is part of the local group of galaxies – it’s smaller than our Milky Way, and fainter than the Andromeda Galaxy posted earlier this week, but I think it’s a rocking looking galaxy from our view here on Earth – the blue spiral arms, the red knots of color in the arms that are active star forming regions, and the individual stars visible in both. It’s about 3 million light years away from us, and contains “only” about 30 billion stars. But it’s still the third largest member of our local group – our neighborhood of galaxies that are close enough to be bound together by gravity.

Amazing stuff!

Climate change:NC teens petition NC environment commission to cut fossil fuel and greenhouse gases | News & Observer

News broke today that Hallie is trying again, this time with friends, to get North Carolina’s environment back on track. Go, Hallie!

Hallie Turner was 13 years old when she stood outside a Wake County courtroom telling media crews with cameras trained on her that she planned to continue to fight for action on climate change despite her unsuccessful attempt to sue North Carolina over its environmental rules.

Now 15, Hallie is trying again to get the state Department of Environmental Quality and the state Environmental Management Commission to adopt a rule calling for a sharp reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next three decades. This time, two other North Carolina teens — Emily Liu, 16, of Chapel Hill, and Arya Pontula, a Raleigh 17-year-old, will join Hallie in petitioning the commission.

With the help of Ryke Longest at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Our Children’s Trust, a Oregon-based nonprofit focused on climate change, the teens hope to persuade the state to adopt a rule ensuring that by 2050 carbon dioxide emissions would be down to zero.

“It would be a future in which you would not be burning fossil fuels to power your homes,” Longest said on Monday, the day before the teens plan to file their petition.

Source: Climate change:NC teens petition NC environment commission to cut fossil fuel and greenhouse gases | News & Observer

Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

I got an email yesterday from Dr. James Baraniuk, the researcher who ran the Gulf War Illness research study I participated in back in October 2016. His paper has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

It’s interesting research, showing brain differences between GWI and CFS patients. Will it prove useful to me? Probably not. In all honesty, I have not had as many episodes of fatigue since I participated the study, in part due to my taking up running, I believe. I still have occasional cognitive issues (which really piss me off when they happen) but energy hasn’t been too big of a problem. That 65 mile bike ride I did with Travis and Kelly absolutely did wreck me the next day (or two), but I suppose it would do that for anyone else who hadn’t properly trained for it.

I’ve always said that the cognitive issues were the biggest issue for me. I wish I had the memory and mental clarity I had in my twenties. As they say, youth is wasted on the young!

Gulf War Illness (GWI) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have similar profiles of pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and exertional exhaustion. Post-exertional malaise suggests exercise alters central nervous system functions. Lumbar punctures were performed in GWI, CFS and control subjects after (i) overnight rest (nonexercise) or (ii) submaximal bicycle exercise. Exercise induced postural tachycardia in one third of GWI subjects (Stress Test Activated Reversible Tachycardia, START). The remainder were Stress Test Originated Phantom Perception (STOPP) subjects. MicroRNAs (miRNA) in cerebrospinal fluid were amplified by quantitative PCR. Levels were equivalent between nonexercise GWI (n?=?22), CFS (n?=?43) and control (n?=?22) groups. After exercise, START (n?=?22) had significantly lower miR-22-3p than control (n?=?15) and STOPP (n?=?42), but higher miR-9-3p than STOPP. All post-exercise groups had significantly reduced miR-328 and miR-608 compared to nonexercise groups; these may be markers of exercise effects on the brain. Six miRNAs were significantly elevated and 12 diminished in post-exercise START, STOPP and control compared to nonexercise groups. CFS had 12 diminished miRNAs after exercise. Despite symptom overlap of CFS, GWI and other illnesses in their differential diagnosis, exercise-induced miRNA patterns in cerebrospinal fluid indicated distinct mechanisms for post-exertional malaise in CFS and START and STOPP phenotypes of GWI.

Source: Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

‘The strangest supernova we’ve ever seen’: A star that keeps exploding — and surviving – The Washington Post

An astonishing astronomical event is taking place. We are constantly shown that we have only the slightest idea of how the universe really works.

Some 500 million light-years away, in a galaxy so distant it looks like little more than a smudge, a star exploded five times over the course of nearly two years, spewing the contents of 50 Jupiters and emitting as much energy as 10 quintillion suns.

This isn’t even the first time this star has gone supernova: Astronomers believe this same body was seen exploding 60 years ago.

Somehow, this “zombie” star has managed to survive one of the most powerful, destructive events known to science — multiple times. It should make us question, researchers wrote Wednesday in the journal Nature, how much we really know about supernovas.

Source: ‘The strangest supernova we’ve ever seen’: A star that keeps exploding — and surviving – The Washington Post

Bonus link to ARS Technica article with juicy astronomy details on this event.

Most Campaign Outreach Has No Effect on Voters – The Atlantic

$6.4 billion. That’s how much candidates, political parties, and interest groups spent on federal elections in 2016, according to the Open Secrets project at the Center for Responsive Politics. Especially in competitive races, huge amounts of money are invested in reaching voters through ads, phone banks, direct mail, and canvassing. Ostensibly, the goal is to persuade people to vote for a particular candidate.

A new paper by two California political scientists finds that the total effect of these efforts is zero, meaning that they have no impact on how voters vote. David Broockman, a Stanford University assistant professor, and Joshua Kalla, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed data from 49 field experiments—state, local, and federal campaigns that let political scientists access their data to evaluate their methods. For every flyer stuck in a mailbox, every door knocked by an earnest volunteer, and every candidate message left on an answering machine, there was no measurable change in voting outcomes. Even early outreach efforts, which are somewhat more successful at persuading voters, tend to fade from memory by Election Day. Broockman and Kalla also estimated that the effect of television and online ads is zero, although only a small portion of their data speaks directly to that point.

Source: Most Campaign Outreach Has No Effect on Voters – The Atlantic