Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of science... the thrill of discovery... and the agony of failed experiments... the human drama of scientific advancement... This is the Blue Streak Science Podcast!

May 23, 2018

On This Week’s Show

  • Megafauna
  • Also, Mount Kilauea is still at with a another thing to worry about
  • Ebola is back in the news
  • I gotta a gut feeling about one of these stories

And let’s not forget the Climate Lounge with Tom Di Liberto

Science News

Diverse and abundant megafauna documented at new Atlantic US Marine National Monument

Did you know today is the International Biodiversity day? And this story touches on the biodiversity of our vast oceans and deep seas.

To my understanding, documenting deep-sea marine life can be extremely challenging. Often times, marine biologists have to go aboard an airplane to survey some of these regions.

One such hotspot which was surveyed recently, lies on the edge of the continental shelf, where the shallow seas off New England drop sharply into the deep waters of the northwestern Atlantic.

This region is called as Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument and is the first American marine national monument in Atlantic waters. this status was designated by President Obama in 2016. I think of it as when a park or a forest area is given a national park status. So it’s seems pretty important to me.

Scientists from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium have surveyed this region aerially three times, since the Summer of 2017. On their latest survey they observed hundreds of Bottlenose dolphins, dozens of whales including the rare Sowerby's beaked whales and dolphins of various species.

These scientists find that such abundance of marine fauna is extraordinary for such a small area. These aerial sightings will help them to study how different species use this biodiverse habitat at different times of the year. These waters, which harbor wide diversity of corals, deep water fishes, and invertebrates FORM a FRAGILE ecosystem which needs to be well protected.     

But you see, new policies recommend that such waters should be opened for offshore drilling which is NO GOOD for  the precious marine life in waters like Northeast canyons.

Science Daily

Hawaiian volcano spews ballistic blocks

I first read this story title as ‘Hawaiian volcano spews ballistic bollocks.’ I did. My first thought was, therefore, oh. Is that literal? What does that even mean? My second thought was ‘ah, I can’t read! Wonderful! Writing my thesis is going to be so much fun!’

But what are ballistic blocks? (And ballistic bollocks). They are, terrifyingly, just massive chunks of rock the size of appliances. Not ideal. These are being chucked out by Kilauea, the volcano that has been in a state of continuous eruption on Hawaii since the 80s.

The caldera (bowl where the lava pools) is deflating, increasing stress at the volcano base. There have been 4.4 magnitude earthquakes. The ash plume can be seen from the ISS. This ash can obviously cause health issues when it’s breathed in. The locals also have to contend with VOG. That’s some sort of horrible gas mix that has sulphur dioxide - highly toxic - mixed in.

So we spoke about Kilauea recently but the Hawaiians’ problems are going nowhere for now!

BBC, Popular Science

Congo confirms first urban Ebola case, raising possibility of ‘explosive increase in cases’

Ebola, a word that we wish to hear no more. But it has resurfaced again, this time in Congo in the city of Mbandaka, home for 1.2 million people. Congo health officials reported that so far there have been there have been 44 suspected cases of Ebola since April and 25 people have died.

The disease causes internal bleeding and is transmitted to humans through the consumption of contaminated meat or close contact with an infected person.

This makes it extremely difficult to contain Ebola in an Urban setting like Congo, as the number of contacts can amplify much quickly.

Also, the city of Mbandaka lies on the bank of the Congo River which is frequently used by the local people for transportation, increasing the chances of the virus spreading down the river over long distances.

Ebola epidemic which first started in 2014 in West Africa was worst ever recorded and resulted in infecting more than 28,000 and killing more than 11,000. The WHO was blamed then in part for not acting on time.

However, this time WHO is doing everything to contain this outbreak before it gets out of proportion.  A vaccination drive has begun on Monday in the city of Mbandaka. More than four thousand doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by Merck have been shipped to Congo. This is an experimental vaccine which proved quite effective in Guinea in 2015-2016.

Their game plan is that, Whenever a new Ebola case is diagnosed, all the people who might have a made recent contact with the affected individual will be traced and vaccinated so the disease remains contained. We’ll just have to wait and watch how this plays out.

But most importantly we should take a pause and appreciate the health workers and doctors without borders who are volunteering in this hard hit area for all their hard work.

Washington Post, NPR

How the gut influences neurologic disease

We don’t give our guts nearly enough thought. I am not talking about those awful yoghurt adverts. Your gut is a hugely complex organ system which also has effects on your brain - the crosstalk between the brain and the gut is still being unravelled.

A new study in Nature regarding the link between neurological disease and the gut - using a combination of human cells and animal models. There is a growing body of work on how byproducts can influence the brain - the context for this group in particular is MS.

The new research, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, focuses on the influence of gut microbes on two types of cells that play a major role in the central nervous system: microglia and astrocytes. Microglia are part of the body's immune system, responsible for scavenging the CNS - they are a sort of cleaner cell, hoovering up plaques, dead cells and other rubbish in the brain. But microglia can also secrete compounds that can damage the astrocytes - another type of brain cell, also key to maintenance and support in the brain, in different manners to the microglia. This damage to astrocytes from microglia is apparently thought to contribute to many neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

However, in this paper, the team reports that byproducts that microbes produce when they break down dietary tryptophan -- an amino acid found in turkey and other foods -- may limit inflammation in the brain through their influence on microglia. So the gut *MAY* be helpful in mitigating inflammatory damage in the brain - at least in the mouse models they used, which had MS. They found evidence for the same sort of pathways in human brain samples.

Science Daily, Nature

The Climate Lounge

National Park service quietly releases Sea level Rise projections.

Let’s talk LOUDLY about it!

Earlier this year, drafts of a report on sea level rises impact on national parks became public mainly for what had been taken out of them... The one thing just so happened to be the main thing that was causing sea level rise in the first place. Climate Change. Yup, every mention of human caused climate change was removed. It’s like taking a running leap into thorn bushes thinking that if I just close my eyes at the end, the thorns will disappear. The thorns won’t disappear. Because that’s a stupid way of thinking.

Fast forward a month and a half and the report has finally been released… quietly with all of the mentions of climate change kept in it but without all of that silly little thing like publicity from outlets such as... the agency it came from…

Ok, so what was this report about again that led to its “odd” treatment? It was a write up created to help 118 coastal parks across the United States prepare for the impacts a changing climate will have on the natural resources and history within those parks. How horrible right? UGH!

Anywaysss, what did the report find? Not surprisingly, as global temperatures heat up, sea levels are expected to rise. And that means for many national parks located along coastlines, problems could quickly worsen over the next century.

The worst hit parks are along North Carolina’s outer Banks. In particular, near the Wright Brothers National Memorial, if we continue to keep emitting greenhouse gases, sea levels could rise 2.7 feet by 2100. Nearby, large portions near the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout seashores would also be underwater. But that is just one park and one area. Many parks from Historic Jamestowne and Assateague Island, Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, the Florida Everglades and Jean Lafitte National Historic Park in New Orleans and even the national parks, right here where I live in Washington DC would be pretty vulnerable.

The Parks service even included a graphic of what Roosevelt Island in the middle of the Potomac River in Washington DC would look like if a category 3 hurriane made landfall. Hint, the park looks blue… because it’s covered in water.

This report is just another in a long list of studies that show just how vulnerable our coasts are to a rising sea because we continue to belch greenhouse gases in the air and do little to change our ways.

For instance, NOAA (in full disclosure I work there but had no hand in this report) issued a report earlier this year that simply looked at how nuisance flooding, minor floods that do little damage but are annoying and occur simply during high tides, would change in various emissions scenarios. The results were pretty shocking. For many places including San Francisco, Boston, New York, Miami, nuisance flooding, that is flooding only due to the tides could happen EVERY DAY by the end of the century if we keep emitting greenhouse gases. And these numbers could increase to over 100 days by 2040-2050, a mere 20-30 years. That’s effectively NOW for planning purposes.

We’ve already done enough damage to ourselves. Hows about we finally stop it, and start getting to work on the healing process.

Reveal News, National Park Service

Pub Quiz

Speaking words of wisdom, letter B

  1. Africanized bees, also known as killer bees, first arrived in the Americas in what country?
  2. What is the class of subatomic particles in which protons and neutrons are included?
  3. Calculated in bits per second, this is the amount of data that can be sent through a connection. What is it more commonly known as?
  4. This principle in fluid dynamics states that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid's potential energy. What is the name of this principle?
  5. A solution consisting of a weak acid and its conjugate base, or vice versa, that is used to maintain the pH value constant in many chemical application is also known as a?
  6. A genus of gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria that is a member of the phylum Firmicutes is a?
  7. What Beatles album was released on the 8th of May in 1970?
  8. Insects of the Order Coleoptera are better known as?
  9. Where would you find the nearest corpus callosum?
  10. What word in the English language contains the greatest number of the letter “B”?

Did you enjoy this bookish badinage?

In Closing

Thank you, everyone.

And remember, follow the science!