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Archive for October, 2011

OpenSource Cures?

October 31, 2011 1 comment

How many of you have heard of opensource software? I am sure many of you have seen or at least used a piece of open sourced software. Well if you dont know, open source means that someone has developed an application and allows others to see the code and modify it as they wish. So as a result people take a look at it and modify it resulting in many many different versions of a particular software. Ultimately it ends up with one software that is the best of all of them. I have long viewed this as the best way to create software, and have wondered why scientists do not use a process similar to this with the general public. Well it looks like it has finally happened. I was recently reading my daily news stories and came upon this article: Crowdsourcing Science Promises Hope For Curing Deadly Disease. Basically a scientist realized that she had alot of basic work to do and that she could spend years applying for grants to do it or she could crowdsource it to the public. She chose the latter, and within three days she had all of what would of taken 3 months work completed. It was much faster and it returned results with 95% accuracy. It saved her a bunch of time and will immensely hasten her research. Now my question is why don’t more scientists do this type of research. There are so many people out there that can help and you never know, some random person might be the key to curing cancer or HIV. I understand that their is the issue of accuracy but I honestly think that at least offering research to the public couldn’t hurt. Hopefully this type of research will expand to more projects and will turn out like my favorite software do: an ultimate cure. What do you think some of the problems that could arise from crowdsourcing are? Do you think there is a solution.

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Cure for Cancer?

October 31, 2011 1 comment

Cancer is a serious subject. It is a disease that is very dangerous and kills many people every year. Cancer has been the focal point of most scientific research as scientists have been searching for a cure. Unfortunately finding a cure is not as easy for cancer as it has been for other diseases. For example, a recent disease that causes scares around the world was the H1N1 virus, or the swine flu. The disease originated in Mexico, and killed thousands of people around the world. People started to panic, but scientists stepped in and were able to find a vaccine to stop the swine flu, which does not come up in peoples minds anymore because it is no longer a problem.

Recently, a scientist named Elisa Oricchio, made a thrilling discovery that could be the first step in finally finding a cure for cancer. Using genetics, Elisa was able to identify a certain gene, EPHA7, that when missing or damaged causes a lymphoma. Lymphoma is a incurable type of cancer that grows slowly, but also has the possability of turning into more aggresive and serious types of cancers. Elisa believes that with more research she may be able to create a vaccine that would be able to kill the lymphoma cells.

The problem is, many aren’t sure if this will be able to stop cancer completely. Interpreting genes may help catch cancer sooner, but it doesn’t necessarily help stop cancer from forming in the first place. This new way of looking for answers seems more like a better way to catch cancer than to actually help treat it and finally find a cure for cancer forever

So, do you think that scientists are getting closer to discovering the cure for cancer? Or that this is a catch to try and keep getting more funding from people? Do you think that this specific discovery will have any impact? Tell me what you think.

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Performance Enhancing….Without Steroids

October 31, 2011 2 comments

This weekend’s sports highlights were the following: the Cardinals won the World Series, the Steelers beat the Patriots and schools such as MIT, Princeton, Georgetown and your very own George Washington University participated in the Princeton Chase for rowing. What do these sports all have in common? They all require athletes to perform at their best.

Now just because baseball players like Mark McGwire may have used steroids doesn’t mean that all athletes use them. In fact, athletes, particularly student athletes, are tested so as to ensure that they don’t use steroids. So how do they increase their performance ability? The answer can be found in carbs! Carbohydrate loading (a.k.a carbo-loading or carb-loading) is a process that spans days before a major event, such as a World Series game or a race. It can be broken down into two phases. Phase one takes place about a week prior to game day. During this phase, athletes lower their carbohydrate intake so as to deplete the carb energy they already have stored as glycogen ( a chain of glucose molecules that is used for the temporary storage of energy). The next phase, phase two, occurs just a few days prior to game day when the athlete will drastically increase their carb intake to replace the energy stores they depleted. This gives the athlete a new, fresher source of energy to draw from on game day! Mayo Clinic provides a much more detailed breakdown of the carbo-loading diet on their website.

For some people this may seem like blasphemy! “Carbs are evil” is a popular notion among the dieting community. In reality, carbohydrates in the right quantity and quality are very nutritional. By carbs, I don’t mean potato chips or french fries. I’m talking about pasta or whole wheat bread, foods that are healthier. But in the end, it’s not only what you eat, its how you use it. Eating right is important, but it’s only half the battle!

Now that you know the “secret” to athletic success, the kind that doesn’t get a million dollar contract terminated and decimates your chances at the hall of fame, what do you think? Have any of you carbo-loaded before when you were playing sports in high school? Do you know any other fun, scientific, nutritional facts?

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Love…and Science?

October 31, 2011 4 comments

Your heart skips a beat, there is an extra spring in your step, and somehow you just can’t get that special someone off your mind. That one of a kind moment that you realize your deeper-than-friendship feelings for that special someone is something truly unmatchable. Relationships are a beautiful thing, allowing us to open ourselves and our lives to somebody who we feel enhances who we are. Though they often have their ups and downs, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all…right?

Love and relationships: prominent factors in our young lives…but related to science? Of course!

A BBC Article I read recently provides some very interesting scientific background about love and relationships. It suggests that falling in love is broken down into three main stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each stage is outlined with the hormones that are produced in excess during that specific time. A very fascinating portion of the article talks about how teenagers (that’s us!) may even experience these stages to be much stronger due to the increase in hormonal activity at this faaaabulous time in our lives.

While I definitely do agree with the information presented in the article, I feel like it reduces the glory of falling in love to a scientific process. Isn’t there so much more to it? Or is love really just chemical reactions in our body that signal to us who that special someone is? What do you think about love, is it merely science or is it something far beyond the realm of experiments and labs?

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Science vs. Ghosts

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I was reading the post below and was reminded of an article I had read a few days ago and figured I would share in the holiday spirit. The article from the comedy website Cracked.com, takes 6 tricks played on or by kids that are usually explained as being somehow related to some paranormal activity, but here they use science to explain them. Perhaps the most relevant is the section on Ouija boards, most people have used one at some point or another, in some dark room during a middle school sleep over. The concept is simple, the spirits are the ones moving the tiles, or at least that’s what you want to believe, but for the most part you believe there’s one kid there pushing and pulling, making everyone else freak out when it spells out the name of that guy why sits in front of you during third period math class. But in reality neither is the case, it turns out you are the one moving, you just don’t realize it; your subconscious created answer to the given question and moves the tile accordingly, only when there are 4 or 5 people moving it at once it creates the feeling that you are having no effect on the movement and therefore it must be the supernatural. But hey that’s just one website’s explanation, give the article a read (its pretty funny) and sound off in the comments, is it science or is your dead cat trying to tell you something.

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Washington’s Whiskey

October 31, 2011 4 comments

Have any of you been to George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in Virginia? I went earlier this year with GWs athletic community. Our Athletic Director decided we needed to see where George lived, and wanted us to learn more about the man who wanted to create a university in the middle of D.C.( cough, cough, George Washington University). I thought I knew a lot about our first president, he had wooden teeth, was a slave owner, and  married a women named Martha. When I went I was reminded of the renaissance fair from back home. People were dressed up in clothes from the 1800s and were re-enacting how people used to live. From these people I learned some new and interesting facts about George Washington, One was that he grew his own grains, and then turned them into whiskey.

George Washington grew rye on his land, and during the war Washington decided to turn his rye into alcohol and sell it. Apparently his rye whiskey was a hit with everyone. Just recently the distillery in Mount Vernon, (the one in Virginia not GWUs other campus) was repaired and preservationist have started recreating George Washington’s rye whiskey. The whiskey is made by taking the grain and cooking it down into a sugar. That is done by mashing the grain and allowing it to ferment for at least 10 days. Then it is put through a distiller.  The preservationists are creating it just as George Washington did. If you wanted to go buy a bottle, you would have to pay 185$ a bottle.

This whole thing about Washington making and selling rye whiskey was a new fact to me. Does anybody else know any cool facts about George Washington?

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Pet Therapy

October 31, 2011 4 comments

Today I woke up with a high fever, a terribly sore throat, the chills and aches everywhere in my body. This is the first time I’ve been seriously ill without my mom to help me. I know for some this might not be a big deal but for me it was. I spent my day shivering, sleeping and skyping with my mom to try to feel better. Unfortunately, you can’t transport chicken noodle soup or heated rice bags through the computer (at least you can’t yet), so I didn’t really feel much improvement. However, when my mom brought my dog onto the screen, I actually smiled, laughed and forgot about how horrible I was feeling for a moment.

I have a lhasa poo dog, which is a mix of a lhasa apso and poodle. If you don’t already understand how adorable this is, have a look at these pictures. My dog, Ricky, has always had a way of bring smiles to people’s faces as I’m sure many dogs do. My family had always talked about making him a therapy dog to help patients in hospitals feel better. I decided to look up if it is true that dogs can actually make people feel better, and I found that there is scientific proof that they do!

As I found out in this article, dogs have been known to have many health benefits for pet owners, including stress relief which I experienced today. It turns out that dogs can decrease owners’ blood pressure, and even raise serotonin and dopamine levels in people, which reduces stress and makes people feel happier. I then was reminded of something I had heard of earlier this month from a friend which was that at Tufts University, during mid terms they have a “puppy room” which allows stressed out students to go play with puppies for a while and reduce their stress. I decided to investigate this to see if it was true and sure enough I found this great video about the puppy love experiments at Tufts University. After experiencing what I did today, I think this is a great idea and would be very effective for stressed out students.

What do you think about this? Have you had any therapeutic pet experiences?

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