Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Natural News? More Like Nonsense News

Natural News? More like Nonsense News!

To begin this post I would like to point out the immediate signs that drew me to believe this website provided “fake” or inaccurate science news. When I visited the website provided below, there was a bold, yellow sign on the top of the page stating that Natural News have been censored by Google search results. If I were to come across this page while researching I would immediately leave the website without further browsing. However, I was curious to see if I could find any more red flags upon glancing through the website.  “Top Seven Natural Cures for Cancer that Got Buried by the FDA, AMA, CDC” was one specific article that stood out to me and caught my attention. I mean who wouldn’t click on it? I would be curious to know the possible cures for the deathly disease! First, I researched the author, S.D. Wells, to see if he or she possibly has any medical background or previous research in the biomedical field of medicine. And just as I predicted, there was nothing. 

This article dives into a conspiracy theory that the FDA and cancer industries destroy cancer cures and even make harmful lab-made drugs that make cancer worse. This author strongly believes that the FDA, AMA, and CDC all contribute to “breeding” cancer in food and medicine to continue the spread of cancer. How crazy does that sound?! In addition, the article includes 7 ways to “cure cancer” including natural curing with herbs and hydrogen peroxide. And what makes it more unrealistic is that they are using sources to support these “cures” from OTHER articles strictly from their website. These resources do NOT include professional discoveries or even experimentations to support their claims. There is no indication that this article was peer reviewed by any professional and includes no accurate or verified data. Overall, this article, and even the entirety of this website, includes controversial nutrition and health claims based on bias opinions. Trust me, I would love to find the cure to cancer; however, I wouldn’t follow these remedies suggested by an author that has no experience in medicine!!! Let’s leave it up to the cancer researchers that evaluate cancer treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. 

Posted by Angela Driscoll (Group A)

Source of picture:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

“A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.”
-Clive Bell
Sempervivum; From: https://www.anniesannuals.com 
Like all critics, Mr. Bell dedicated his life to sussing out what exactly defines art, only to never really reach a concrete answer. For that reason, I’m not going to try and tackle such a daunting topic in the short time I have. However, I do think it is fair to say that most of the truly captivating art (if not all of it) lies at some nexus of seemingly unrelated fields. Some intersections seem so niche that one would think that creativity is being forced, but circumstance gives rise to some truly unique ideas.

In their unorthodox pieces, experimental artists leave the masses guessing at genius, and while that may be the case at times, it is more often the spill-over from everyday life that influences art; music being no exception. There are swathes of exciting musical genres inspired by seemingly mundane themes. 

For example, techno - the soulful, yet stoic, genre responsible for sparking the modern dance scene - is the result of bored, talented black Detroit youth trying to make sense of the downtrodden city's web of empty streets and abandoned assembly plants. Within these genres an infinite level of special interest subgenres exists. One topic that musicians seem to have always been interested in is nature, and more specifically plants. It may sound weirdly specific, but the amount of plant-centric music out there is alarming. And hey, if Laurie Anderson can write Music for Dogs, why can’t we have music for plants? 

Mort Garson's Plantasia; Music For Plants and the People Who Love Them

The intersection of plants and music has been taken to a new level recently with the advent of plant-based synthesizers. Musicians, scientists, and/or hobbyists alike have taken advantage of the affordability and amazing prototyping abilities of Arduino hardware to turn common houseplants into tools of sonic warfare. 

This idea isn’t necessarily new, as plant biologists have used the capacitance inherent to a leaf to create a basic touch sensor before. However, Leslie Garcia's Pulsu(m) Plantae project has moved far beyond touch sensors. Using Arduino technology, Garcia is capable of whisking up an armada of sensors at an affordable rate. These sensors, such as photodetectors, barometers, pressure detectors, measure biofeedback within the plant. The Arduino instruments used measure physiological information and, through an open source Arduino program, the data is converted into a format usable by an audio engine such as PureData or MaxMSP. In essence, this gives the plant a prosthetic voice. 

In this video, one can see how the process unfolds. The plant behaves as a signal transducer and different stimuli result in different biofeedback loops, which, in turn, results in a variety of unique sounds. Perhaps the most striking example is the dramatic change in timbre when the lamp (aimed toward the Sempervivum) is turned on. What we are hearing is a sonic manifestation of the plant's internal communication response to light. Prior to activation, a steady four-note arpeggiation persists. Once the light is activated, the rate parameter of the arpeggiator is altered, increasing from steady eighth notes, to what are at least 1/32 notes. This is likely governed by a binary operator, where this parameter is automated by the presence or absence of light; something like "if light ON, then increase arp_rate to 1/32".

A short documentary showing the work going into the Pulsu(m) Plantae project.

Full details of the Pulsu(m) Plantae project can be explored here, it really is worth diving into.

One might wonder what the impetus behind such experimentation is. The answer is that there really doesn't need to be one. Though if someone is curious what applications a project like this might have, there are a few that come to mind. An important biological application of the project is the ability to translate data into a readily understandable medium. Raw data can be difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of at times, and this project proposes a way to process it. We use graphical representations of data for interpretation, so why not acoustic representations? There have been countless situations where a graph was ineffective at communicating its message, but it was used to represent the data anyway since no other, more useful format was available.

More interestingly, this project shows promise in the field of ambient music. Albeit gimmicky, a setup like this has connotations romantic enough to provoke interest. In addition, the cost is nominal. Artists are constantly seeking new sounds while on a budget and if one can find a granular synthesizer such as this at such a comparably low price, the utility could be huge, especially with the meteoric rise of the DIY electronics scene.

What makes this setup unique - aside from the obvious - is its ability to switch out components, yielding an infinite library of potential sounds. Maybe one day you're feeling in a Dianthus kind of funk, and the next, you're finding yourself sympathizing with the humble Geranium. Just switch out the plants and you'll likely discover that individual varieties produce unique sounds. It sounds silly, but who knows? Maybe at the next dingy basement show you visit, some dude will be jamming on a modular Chrysanthemum.


The Microbiome Dilemma

The Microbiome Dilemma

What is the microbiome? What does a healthy microbiome look like? These questions can be difficult to answer. To us Americans, a relatively healthy microbiome might still be dysbiotic, or imbalanced. The microbiome consists of trillions of microbes living in a human's large intestine.http://edbites.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/microbiome.jpg
Our gut microbiota has huge impacts on our health including protection from pathogens and development of immune response. The microbiota can be effected quickly and easily by factors such as antibiotics and diet. The microbes depend on high-fiber intake to be healthy and to work at maximum capacity in our intestines. Unfortunately for us, the average American fiber intake is significantly less than what it should be. The recommended amount of daily fiber is between 25 – 30 grams for females and males between 18-50 years of age, and even this is low compared to the diets of some other countries. For example, rural Africans eat about 60-140 grams of fiber per day. Despite our recommended amount of daily fiber, the average daily intake is only 15 grams for Americans. It’s no surprise that America has a poor food system. Our diets consist mostly of processed and refined foods, which consequently, do not contain much fiber. Most of the fiber in our diets should come from plants, legumes or animal fiber, of which we do not eat enough of. 

Why is a healthy microbiome so important? A study done around the beginning of 2016 on rodents fed a low-fiber diet showed that diversity of microbes declines with each subsequent generation. To ensure the experiment was accurate, the rats were fed the feces of an American to give them the microbiota of a human. The rats were fed a diet of pellets that had 30% less fiber than the control food which was considered high-fiber. The results were shocking. Tests showed that 60% of microbes lost at least half of their population in the microbiome on this low-fiber diet. The offspring of these mice had even less microbes since the parents were unable to pass what little microbes they had onto their offspring during birth or through their feces. The fourth-generation offspring had 1/4th of the microbe diversity of the original generation.

So, what are the consequences of a low diversity microbiome? Researchers found that some consequences could be obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. While it’s not a definite cause, researchers have reason to believe that obesity and microbiome diversity could be connected because they found that obese people have a lower diversity microbiome than the compared leaner people. In other microbiota enumeration studies, there have been implications that low diversity in microbiota are related to metabolic syndrome and cancer, as well as inflammatory bowel syndrome, once again. As mentioned above, rural Africans eat 3-7 times more fiber than Americans. As a result, they have greater stool mass, their intestinal transit time was twice as fast and they didn’t show signs of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and colorectal cancer. The moral of the story is: eat more fiber! Diet is so important for our current selves and our future generations. As biology majors, don't we know that the goal is to produce healthy offspring?

Sources: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/your-poor-diet-might-hurt-your-grandchildren-s-guts
Image source: http://edbites.com/2013/01/gut-feelings-eds-and-the-microbiome/

Posted by Jordan Milone (3)

Can You Sense Cancer? My Dog Can!

Imagine a world where dogs were able to tell their owners that they had cancer? Crazy, I know right? Well there are actually many programs around that are training dogs to detect signs of early or late stages of breast cancer and lung cancer in humans. Although everyone may be a little scared to imagine having their dog come up to them one random sunny day and sniff their chest and bark because they’re trying to tell them that they have stage four lung cancer. That’s not really the reaction they’re trained to present. It’s more of a subtle, “Hi, I know this is scary but you have cancer, can I get a treat now?” type of reaction. In all seriousness however, the positive side to all of this is how they can detect even early stages so that the cancer can be treated earlier rather than later. Cool right?
So you might be wondering, “How they do it?” One study was done by training dogs over a three-week period and the dogs were exposed to several breath samples taken from different patients. Among the samples were 55 patients that had lung cancer, 31 patients that had breast cancer, and 83 that were healthy patients. The dogs were taught to give a positive sign for a patient with cancer. A positive sign was either sitting or lying down directly in front of the sample and a negative sign was simply ignoring the sample if it came from a healthy patient. This behavior was reinforced with treats so that the dogs were motivated to accurately perform the task asked by the trainer. The results revealed that they were able to detect lung and breast cancer in the samples with specificity between 88-97%
By simply detecting the early stages of cancer this has the ability to improve the chances of fighting cancer early rather than catching it in its much later stages. If this doesn’t convince you that a dog is a man’s best friend then I’m not sure what will.


Posted by Ana Carolina Nepomuceno 

Running for Your Heart

Running for your Heart
Most people cringe at the idea of going for a run. From changing into your clothes, having time to shower off the sweat afterwards, finding the right running shoes, knowing which socks to wear when, and knowing what to eat before and after a run makes it seem like a full time job. I understand completely. Not many people think about running a half marathon with excitement. But, not many people try it either.

We know running is healthy for you, as is any exercise. But why is it so good for your heart? There are two very important reasons:

The Journal of American College of Cardiology conducted a study which provided evidence that running can “reduce all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk.” The subjects of the study were, on average, forty-four years old. The amount of exercise recommended is at minimum, seventy-five hours per one week. However, the results of this study led to different conclusions. The JACC concluded that mortality benefits were prominent even with a minimum of thirty minutes running a week for all-cause mortality risks. Specifically regarding cardiovascular mortality risks, the recommended minimum of running was fifty-nine minutes per week. Running enables our heart muscle to grow stronger and with every beat, pump more blood throughout our body.

Not only does running strengthen your heart and prevent mortality risks, it also heals it. Whether you lost your job and are financially unstable, just went through a break up, or lost someone close to you, running can help. The last thing you might want to do is get out of bed and use your body. However, running releases endorphins which interact with specific receptors of your brain and help reduce the feeling of pain. The method is similar to how morphine works. Although you may not be in physical pain and what you feel is on an emotional level, the same happy feeling still occurs. A study done with male runners showed that running helps improve brain connectivity. Brain connectivity is what is responsible for decision making and is often compromised when we are upset.

Whether you want to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality or you’re going through something else, running is the answer. It can be as little as ten minutes a day and three days a week and you’ll notice differences in yourself.


Posted by Anna Potorski

Home on a New Planet

Home on a New Planet

There's always been a question about life on other planets. Do aliens exist? Could they ever contact us? If so, why haven't they already? Nowadays, a new sort of question is being asked. What we want to know is whether human beings will ever be able to live on planets other than Earth. Back in 2015, BBC reported that NASA had plans to start sending people to live on Mars by as early as 2030. This would be extremely complicated though, since Mars' current environment is incredibly harsh and hostile to life. Just this week, however, new reports have started to emerge about a far away star that has seven Earth-sized planets orbiting around it. As you could probably imagine, this has triggered a question frenzy about whether these planets could be the ones we've been looking for all along. 

In articles published both by the Guardian and by BBC, Trappist-1, roughly the size of Jupiter, has been described as a low-mass, relatively cooler star that has seven planets orbiting around it. Of these seven, only three are considered to be potentially habitable, while the rest are sadly not. Even though these planets are very close to the star, the star shines much less brightly than our sun, so it is still possible that liquid water may be found on its surface. The rule to remember: where there's water, chances are there's life too. 

So what now? Well, according to astronomers, the next thing to look for is an atmosphere. More specifically, they are looking for important gases like oxygen and methane, since these usually tell us something about what's happening down on the planet's surface. It would still be a bit too early to infer the existence of biological life, but these clues could lead scientists in particular directions and assist them in studying these planets further and further until they finally arrive at the answers they seek.

Finally, the issue about life on other planets will always be a controversial one, but it will also always be one that scientists must passionately pursue in order to gain a better understanding of not only how biology works, but of how our universe in its entirety has functioned and will continue to function for years to come. Finding a new home out there, one other than Earth, is a challenge, but it isn't one that's beyond our capabilities as scientists and innovators. One day, maybe in the next 20 years, maybe in the next 200, or maybe in the next 2000 if you live that long, don't be surprised to wake up, turn on your TV, and watch footage of the first colony being set up in a galaxy far, far away.

Posted by Peter Makhoul (3)

Sources of main articles:



Additional source:



Vegging Out

            “You don’t eat….BACON?” is a common question most vegans and vegetarians get especially when going out to breakfast. I know it may be shocking, but there are about six to eight million adults in the United States who don’t eat meat, fish or poultry. Although there is a lot of negative stereotypes around vegetarianism there are a lot of health benefits to this type of lifestyle.
 Image result for vegetarian
Although there is not outstanding evidence that being solely vegetarian (i.e. no drinking, smoking etc.) can help prevent chronic illnesses, there is increasing research that may influence you to change your diet slightly. According to Harvard Medical School there was a combined analysis of data from five studies involving 76,000 participants that showed that vegetarians were 25% less likely to die of heart disease. The Harvard Health Publications also mentioned that eliminating red meat would lower if not eliminate your risk of colon cancer, which is also a benefit. Finally a particularly relevant disease, type 2 diabetes, can also be reduced by using a primarily plant based diet.
If you do ever try to become a vegetarian it is important that you are getting a lot of protein! You can get this in a variety of forms such as quinoa (8 grams of protein per 1 cup) and rice and beans (7 grams of protein per 1 cup). However, the most important part is deciding if being a vegetarian is right for you and your body. There are also a lot of different varieties on the scale of vegetarianism such as being a pescatarian, which is someone who doesn’t eat meat but does eat fish.
            Although there are a lot of studies that have proven a number of health benefits it is important to recognize that all of these studies are based on vegetarian diets that are “appropriately planned” as said by the American Dietetic Association. This means that just because you are not eating meat doesn’t mean you can eat candy and pizza all day and expect these reductions in health risks. Trust me I wish that ice cream could lower my risks of heart disease or cancer, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Posted By: Kate Masterson

Full Article:
Additional Sources:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Resurrection of the Woolly Mammoth

Resurrection of the Woolly Mammoth

Harvard scientists recently announced that they are merely two years away from creating the “mammophant”, a woolly mammoth and Asian elephant hybrid. The Asian elephant is the extinct creature’s closest living relative. The team has used CRISPR/Cas-9 technology to edit 45 individual mammoth genes from a well-preserved carcass found in Siberia in 2013. The team plans to “mammoth-ify” an Asian elephant genome and eventually create a fetus that will be grown in an artificial womb. Many experts agree that this feat cannot be completed in just two years.

The de-extinction of the woolly mammoth also poses some ethical questions. How will other elephants react to it? Where would the mammoth live? Elephants are very social animals, so will there be other resurrected mammoths or will it be living among Asian elephants? Artificial womb technology likely won’t be possible this decade, and putting an endangered species at risk by impregnating it is unethical. Another issue with reviving an extinct species is that it downplays the importance of protecting endangered species. The biggest question I have is why even do this? Just to prove that it is possible? It will be interesting to hear more as the Harvard team continues with this project!

Posted by Sierra Tyrol (3)

Sources: http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/woolly-mammoths-could-soon-be-back-from-extinction-claim-harvard-scientists


Image: https://medium.com/@johnhawks/how-mammoth-cloning-became-fake-news-1e3a80e54d42#.6zhgqgfwm

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why drink water?

We have all heard either a doctor, a parent or some poster say 'Don't forget to drink 8 cups of water a day!' but why? Well first off without water we would die after about three days. Most people know that our bodies are 60% water and its important for our health to keep hydrated. We are constantly loosing water through sweating, breathing or going to the bathroom and its important to maintain a balance of fluids. A maintained balance helps with digestion, circulation and regulating body temperature. When our fluid concentration is low the body goes into thirst mode. Cells can become shriveled causing fatigue, dizziness and weakness and proper water balance is needed to energize muscles and feel refreshed and alert!  Kidneys are constantly circulating fluids and need enough fluids to aid in getting rid of what the body does not need. Its easy to tell when you are dehydrated, urine will increase in color and odor. A main source of headaches is dehydration, one thing college students know too much of after a night of drinking. Think of water like oil, its helps the whole system run smoothly.
Not only does water help you feel better but it'll help you look better! Water can help with breakouts and keep skin clear by flushing out all the bad toxins trapped in your skin. Without it skin can look dry and wrinkled. Knowing the importance of drinking water might help you choose a bottle of water instead of a soda next time and lowering your calorie count for the day! Personally I know how difficult it is to constantly drink water throughout the day. Water helps you feel full and keeps you away from unhealthy snacking. Some easy tips to help with that are just making sure you carry a water bottle with you everywhere! Camelback water bottles help me drink the most since you do not have to keep unscrewing the top. Try having a glass of water with every meal. If plain water is too boring for you add cucumbers, pineapples and lemon for a little extra flavor. Or even packets such as crystal light can help! It is recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day. Now grab some water and get drinking!

Melissa Stephens

Run Ants, Run!

Run Ants, Run!

Science has come a long way from where it was decades ago and we have the advances in many technologies to thank for that. Since the 1960s, spherical treadmills have been used to study how animals on a much smaller scale walk and run. However, they haven’t been sensitive enough to keep up with an ants’ tiny and speedy legs. Researchers conducted a new study by building a treadmill specifically made for ants. This advanced treadmill consists of a highly responsive and lightweight styrofoam ball that they walk upon while being suspended by a leash made of dental floss that’s glued onto them. This flexible tether allows for the ants to roam as freely and naturally as possible without any heavy constraints affecting their movement because previous studies have been too rigid.  
With this treadmill, researchers were able to study the complex ant homing behavior. To begin, ants were captured from a feeding site located about 30 feet from their nesting site. At that distance, they had already developed a route to make their way back to the nest. After being transferred onto the treadmill, they would begin in the presumed direction by mechanisms observed in prior studies: using the sun’s position and the sky as a compass, and by calculating the distance traveled by counting steps. The direction and speed of the ant’s movement could be recorded. When the nest isn’t where it’s expected, ants take on a “search mode” after realizing they’re completely lost. When in search mode, the ants will slow down and follow a looping pattern. I’d imagine this is the type of behavior we’ve all witnessed from ants sometime in our life as kids when we’d block their pathways with our feet to see where they would go next (and we probably just enjoyed watching them scurry around in circles).

By being able to use this new equipment, an ant’s behavior could be studied more efficiently. Parameters could easily be controlled and tweaked to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms and neurophysiological activity associated with navigation.  

Posted by Natalie Nou (3)

Source of article:

Source of picture:

Additional sources linked: