!team science

You are Stardust 

Every atom in your body is billions of years old. Hydrogen, the most common element in the universe and a major feature of your body, was produced in the big bang 13.7bn years ago. Heavier atoms such as carbon and oxygen were forged in stars between 7bn and 12bn years ago, and blasted across space when the stars exploded. Some of these explosions were so powerful that they also produced the elements heavier than iron, which stars can’t construct. This means that the components of your body are truly ancient: you are stardust. (Source)


"Our ancestors worshipped the Sun, and they were not that foolish.
It makes sense to revere the Sun and the stars, for we are their children.”
- Carl Sagan

February marked five years of operation for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and to celebrate the SDO team released some mind-blowing footage. The observatory acquired 200 million+ images over the years that show an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the Sun grow and erupt. I borrowed a few seconds of the footage to create this Vine but there is a lot more to see. Watch all the footage on NASA Goddard’s YouTube channel.

Music credit: Boards of Canada- “White Cyclosa”


daniel stoupin, a doctoral candidate in marine biology at the university of queensland, has photographed a variety of coral species from the great barrier reef using full spectrum light to reveal fluorescent pigments that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.

given the complexity of the techniques used, which involve time-lapse, stereoscopic and focus stacked photography, the images take up to ten hours to produce in the lab. 

coral growth rates in the great barrier reef have plummeted 40 percent in the last 40 years, a result, according to a recent study, of increased ocean acidification. 

since the beginning of the industrial revolution, about one third of the carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans, where it in turn prevents coral from using a mineral called aragonite to make their calcified skeletons. 

this impacts not only the coral itself but over 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc that inhabit the great barrier reef. 

new modelling has also shown that if ocean waters continue to warm by even one degree, which most now see as unstoppable, the coverage of corals on the great barrier reef could decline to less than 10 percent, which is a level too low for the reef to mount a recovery. 

further complicating matters for the coral is the plastic detritus left by humans which now litter the oceans and which the coral now consume. unable to expel the plastic bits and thus take in nutrients, the coral slowly starve. a recent study found that each square kilometre of australia’s sea surface water is contaminated with approximately 4,000 pieces of tiny plastic.


When salt-rich water leaks out of sea ice, it sinks into the sea and can occasionally create an eerie finger of ice called a brinicle. When the brinicle sinks to the seabed, it has the potential to destroy everything it comes into contact with. 

GIF created by Sixpenceee. Original video from The Discovery channel’s “Frozen Planet.” 

Black holes aren’t black

They’re very dark, sure, but they aren’t black. They glow, slightly, giving off light across the whole spectrum, including visible light.

This radiation is called “Hawking radiation”, after the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University Stephen Hawking, who first proposed its existence. Because they are constantly giving this off, and therefore losing mass, black holes will eventually evaporate altogether if they don’t have another source of mass to sustain them; for example interstellar gas or light. (Source)

Researchers have achieved wireless speeds of 1 Tb per second

That’s fast enough to download 10 full-length movies in less than a second… wirelessly.

Researchers at the University of Surrey in England have achieved 5G speeds of 1 Terabit per second (Tbps) over 100 metres in the lab - by far the fastest wireless connection to date.

The 5G, or fifth generation, mobile network will eventually replace our current 4G technology, with its comparatively poxy speeds of around 15 Mbps, and it’s hoped that it will revolutionise how we use mobile devices.

It’s previously been estimated that speeds of 50 Gbps could be achieved on the 5G network, but now the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) has gone and smashed those expectations.

Continue Reading.

The news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy made me reflect on his impact on our culture and society. Regardless of his work as an actor, director, writer, poet, photographer, or musician, Nimoy will forever be linked to Spock. The breadth of his work and skills are the envy of most of us, and I do appreciate his legacy outside of Star Trek. Like most, I’ll always consider him as Spock. The loss of a quality person and actor will be felt by all and my thoughts are with his friends and family. Nimoy’s passing is an end of an era and hits all of us science fiction fans.

I grew up a child of the 1970s, and have always loved science fiction. Obviously, this includes Star Trek. Consider the time when the series came into production. The United States was in the midst of the Cold War, Vietnam was escalating, civil unrest was growing, and the Civil Rights Act was just signed into law in 1964. Here was a show that was bold enough to have a Russian officer (Chekhov), a black female officer (Uhura), and an alien as the first officer (Spock). Although not perfect in its makeup and not above some minor sexism, the crew of the Enterprise was diverse in terms of race. For the late 1960s, Star Trek was far and above most, if not all, other TV shows or movies. Woman and races were not disposable characters to kill off (these were the red shirts, but that’s another story), but rather members of the crew that contributed value.

In a sense, Nimoy and Spock are the same. The legacy forever will be tied in with the other. Nimoy defined Spock for the masses. He was more than pointy ears, or the cool logic that he applied to his thoughts and personality. Star Trek documentaries have addressed the impact of Star Trek on culture, and in many cases, the number of scientists that were inspired by Star Trek as children are extensive. The technology was exotic and inspirational. How many of our gadgets and technology today can be attributed to individuals being inspired by Spock? He was the alien on the show, but he was the science officer. Spock made science something interesting to many, and as they grew up, they became scientists. Science and engineering was in a sense one of the characters of the show.

The world today needs another Spock to inspire and promote science. Over the last decade or two, science has been reduced to politics and religious debates. Many people ignore data and facts because it does not fit in their belief system. I wonder about how many would-be scientists are looking elsewhere because there is nothing to inspire them. For many people, there’s nothing that makes them question the nature of things or to wonder. The 1960s had the moon missions, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and also Star Trek. Science was a forefront profession and sparked curiosity and wonder about the future. Today, it’s all been reduced to costs, politics, or whether or not it violates religious beliefs.

Leonard Nimoy will be missed, and although I never met or spoke with him, I feel bad at his loss. Social media is buzzing with those lamenting his loss, which attributes to his character and personality. Those who knew him are referring to him like a brother or father figure. His impact on others will be missed. His loss is felt.

Farewell Mr. Nimoy. You will be missed.

Live long and prosper.

What is your “real age?”

Just like a chicken, your life started off with an egg. Not a chunky thing in a shell, but an egg nonetheless. However, there is a significant difference between a human egg and a chicken egg that has a surprising effect on your age. Human eggs are tiny. They are, after all, just a single cell and are typically around 0.2mm across – about the size of a printed full stop. Your egg was formed in your mother – but the surprising thing is that it was formed when she was an embryo. The formation of your egg, and the half of your DNA that came from your mother, could be considered as the very first moment of your existence. And it happened before your mother was born. Say your mother was 30 when she had you, then on your 18th birthday you were arguably over 48 years old. (Source)


The Tsars’s vodka in action. Aqua regia or Царская водка in Russian is a 3/1 mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.

Upon mixing concentrated hydrochloric acid and concentrated nitric acid a chemical reactions occurs. The product of the reaction is nitrosyl chloride and chlorine as evidenced by the fuming nature and characteristic yellow color of aqua regia. In this case the dissolved copper and other transition metals turned the color of the solution deep green, but the gas over the solution is yellow from the chlorine and nitrous fumes.

Interesting fact about the Nobel prize and the dissolution of gold:

When Nazi Germany occupied Denmark from April 1940, during World War II, György de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and
James Franck with aqua regia; it was illegal at the time to send gold out of the country, and were it discovered that Laue and Franck had done so to prevent them from being stolen, they could have faced prosecution in Germany. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The Nobel Society then recast the Nobel Prizes using the original gold.

George de Hevesy got his Noble Prize in Chemistry for ”for his work on the use of isotopes as tracers in the study of chemical processes” in 1943.

Max von Laue got his Nobel Prize in Physics for ”for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals” in 1914.

James Franck got his Nobel Prize in Physics ”for his discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom” in 1925.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D May Control Brain Serotonin, Affecting Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders

Although essential marine omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior in the context of certain brain disorders, the underlying mechanism has been unclear. In a new paper published in FASEB Journal by Rhonda Patrick, PhD and Bruce Ames, PhD of Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), serotonin is explained as the possible missing link tying together why vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acids might ameliorate the symptoms associated with a broad array of brain disorders.

In a previous paper published last year, authors Patrick and Ames discussed the implications of their finding that vitamin D regulates the conversion of the essential amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, and how this may influence the development of autism, particularly in developing children with poor vitamin D status.

Here they discuss the relevance of these micronutrients for neuropsychiatric illness. Serotonin affects a wide-range of cognitive functions and behaviors including mood, decision-making, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and even plays a role in social decision-making by keeping in check aggressive social responses or impulsive behavior.

Many clinical disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression share as a unifying attribute low brain serotonin. “In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and pro-social behavior,” says Dr. Patrick. “We link serotonin production and function to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting one way these important micronutrients help the brain function and affect the way we behave.”

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) increases serotonin release from presynaptic neurons by reducing inflammatory signaling molecules in the brain known as E2 series prostaglandins, which inhibit serotonin release and suggests how inflammation may negatively impact serotonin in the brain. EPA, however, is not the only omega-3 that plays a role in the serotonin pathway. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also influences the action of various serotonin receptors by making them more accessible to serotonin by increasing cell membrane fluidity in postsynaptic neurons.

Their paper illuminates the mechanistic links that explain why low vitamin D, which is mostly produced by the skin when exposed to sun, and marine omega-3 deficiencies interacts with genetic pathways, such as the serotonin pathway, that are important for brain development, social cognition, and decision-making, and how these gene-micronutrient interactions may influence neuropsychiatric outcomes. “Vitamin D, which is converted to a steroid hormone that controls about 1,000 genes, many in the brain, is a major deficiency in the US and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are very common because people don’t eat enough fish,” said Dr. Ames.

This publication suggests that optimizing intakes of vitamin D, EPA, and DHA would optimize brain serotonin concentrations and function, possibly preventing and ameliorating some of the symptoms associated with these disorders without side effects.