Something in the blood – ME/CFS Research Review

Fluge and Mella used an expensive bit of kit called the Seahorse analyser, which measures glycolysis through the lactate production and mitochondrial activity through changes in oxygen levels.

They tested normal healthy muscle cells that had been grown in the lab. But they added to those cells serum taken from either ME/CFS patients or healthy controls. Serum is the fluid left over after blood has clotted and it contains small molecules and other soluble substances.

They have data for 12 people with ME/CFS and 12 healthy controls, a relatively small sample.What they found was, surprisingly, that the muscle cells produced more lactate and burned more oxygen when they were incubated with ME/CFS serum than when incubated in serum from healthy controls. And the effect was particularly strong when the cells were made to work hard.

Source: Something in the blood – ME/CFS Research Review

The healthiest people in the world don’t go to the gym — Quartzy

More evidence that our reliance on cars is killing us.

If you want to be as healthy as possible, there are no treadmills or weight machines required. Don’t just take my word for it—look to the longest-lived people in the world for proof.

People in the world’s Blue Zones—the places around the world with the highest life expectancy—don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms.

Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without even thinking about it. This means that they grow gardens, walk throughout the day, and minimize mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

In fact, Blue Zones researchers determined that routine natural movement is one of the most impactful ways to increase your life span, and a common habit among the world’s longest-lived populations.

Source: The healthiest people in the world don’t go to the gym — Quartzy

Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

Interesting analysis of Russian reaction to SpaceX’s successful docking and return of it’s CrewDragon spacecraft.

One of the big questions surrounding the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was how the Russians would react. They have held considerable sway in the International Space Station partnership by controlling access to the orbiting laboratory since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. So far, the Russian response has been one of throwing small bits of shade here and there but trying not to be too obvious about it.

On Sunday, when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, the Russian space corporation sequestered cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in the Russian segment of the station. This was, Roscosmos said, so that Kononenko could take emergency action in case the Dragon became uncontrollable and crashed into the space station.

After the successful docking, Roscosmos tweeted a Russian language congratulation to NASA, but underscored the fact “that flight safety must be above reproach.” An hour later it published a rare tweet in English, sending “its sincere compliments to the colleagues from NASA,” but without the emphasis on vehicle safety. Neither tweet mentioned SpaceX. (Later, Roscosmos said NASA ordered the ship and, therefore, deserved the congratulations.)

Source: Russia’s passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth | Ars Technica

How to revive stale bread

I was pondering the chemistry of stale bread the other day when I decided to see what science I could find on it. This excellent article popped up.

A fresh-baked loaf of bread is one of life’s great pleasures. The soft interior is open and airy, each bite yielding with just a touch of resistance. The exterior is all crust, a crisp and crackly delight contrasting in both texture and flavor. This balance is fleeting, though. Straight from the oven it’s at its best, but with every minute that passes, that loaf moves one step further toward crouton, hard-tack, and hockey puck. Why must nature be so cruel? Why does all bread go stale?

It’s tempting to believe that stale bread is simply dry bread and that efforts to keep it moist can stave off this sad fate. The real culprit, though, is a subtle chemical change that alters the food’s structure on a molecular level. This process—called starch retrogradation—turns bread’s texture leathery and gritty, and it makes the loaf taste dry (whether the moisture has really evaporated or not). Though this can’t be stopped completely, it can sometimes be slowed or reversed. Let’s look a little deeper.

Source: How to revive stale bread

PG&E Details Damage to Power Lines in Area Where Camp Fire Began | The California Report | KQED News

I went down the rabbit hole this morning, finding all about the origins of last year’s Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California’s history. The cause has been traced to faulty equipment on a high-voltage transmission tower. Being a geek, I wanted to learn more about the technical aspects of this part, so I dug up some informative articles.

First, here’s the start of an informative story on the disaster itself:

PG&E has released new details of damage to its electrical equipment in the area where Butte County’s catastrophic Camp Fire began last month — including a broken power pole “with bullets and bullet holes at the break point.”

The new information is included in a letter updating the California Public Utilities Commission on a pair of electrical incidents that occurred Nov. 8 about the same time the fire started and began to race toward the town of Paradise.

One of the incidents occurred at 6:15 a.m. on a major electrical transmission line suspended on a series of high steel towers on a steep slope above the North Fork of the Feather River. PG&E’s new letter suggests that a large steel hook connecting high-voltage equipment to a tower near the utility’s Poe Dam failed, causing the equipment to arc.

Source: PG&E Details Damage to Power Lines in Area Where Camp Fire Began | The California Report | KQED News

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

A good analysis on which mode of transportation is the greenest.

One question we’ve fielded lately with the release of our US airline efficiency ranking is how the fuel efficiency, and therefore carbon intensity, of aircraft compare to other modes of transportation. Vehicles meet a variety of transport needs, in terms of what is transported (people vs. goods), distance traveled (short intercity trips vs. transoceanic transport), and speed (12 mph on a bike vs. Mach 0.85 in a long-haul aircraft). Typically, travelers choose between different transport modes based upon a variety of criteria—cost, speed, comfort, even safety—with carbon footprint generally only a secondary consideration. But, for those relative few who would consider planning a trip with carbon dioxide emissions in mind, here are some preliminary thoughts.

Source: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Counting Carbon | International Council on Clean Transportation

Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.

Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.

Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.

In all, the researchers conclude that as much as 40 percent of all insect species may be endangered over the next several decades. (Caveat: Most of the data was obtained from studies conducted in Europe and North America.) And around 41 percent of all insect species on record have seen population declines in the past decade.

“We estimate the current proportion of insect species in decline … to be twice as high as that of vertebrates, and the pace of local species extinction … eight times higher,” the authors write. “It is evident that we are witnessing the largest [insect] extinction event on Earth since the late Permian and Cretaceous periods.”

Source: Insects are dying off — alarmingly fast – Vox

The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

Packing for a two-week trip through the Arctic on a nuclear icebreaking ship sounds like an extraordinary endeavor, but it’s all part of the job for Dr. Joanne Feldman, Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA’s Department of Emergency Medicine and a polar expedition physician with Quark Expeditions. Dr. Feldman, better known as Dr. Jo, has become an expert in motion sickness treatment through many seasons of braving the high seas on expedition ships to both the Arctic and Antarctic; and her specialty in wilderness emergency medicine and experience as a physician with the U.S. Antarctic Program at Palmer Station primed her for the challenges of experiencing life at the extremes. For the less seasoned on the seas, Dr. Jo is a resource as well as a potentially lifesaving presence. Condé Nast Traveler? spoke with her onboard the ship 50 Years of Victory as it powered through ice near the North Pole:

Source: The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness – Condé Nast Traveler

If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

“I don’t care what people say,” asserts Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department and author of one of the most controversial articles in the realm of science last year (and also one of the most popular in the general media). “It doesn’t matter to me,” he continues. “I say what I think, and if the broad public takes an interest in what I say, that’s a welcome result as far as I’m concerned, but an indirect result. Science isn’t like politics: It is not based on popularity polls.”

Prof. Abraham Loeb, 56, was born in Beit Hanan, a moshav in central Israel, and studied physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as part of the Israel Defense Forces’ Talpiot program for recruits who demonstrate outstanding academic ability. Freeman Dyson, the theoretical physicist, and the late astrophysicist John Bahcall admitted Loeb to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, whose past faculty members included Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. In 2012, Time magazine named Loeb one of the 25 most influential people in the field of space. He has won prizes, written books and published 700 articles in the world’s leading scientific journals. Last October, Loeb and his postdoctoral student Shmuel Bialy, also an Israeli, published an article in the scientific outlet “The Astrophysical Journal Letters,” which seriously raised the possibility that an intelligent species of aliens had sent a spaceship to Earth.

Source: If true, this could be one of the greatest discoveries in human history – U.S. News – Haaretz.com

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

Source: Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why