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John Birks, Author at Mirror Daily – Page 15 of 17

Mars One, a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands has an encouraging mission: establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. The organisation has selected 100 candidates out of the initial 202,586 applicants who are to get in the third selection round.

The list is made out of 50 men and 50 women who come from all around the world – with 39 coming from North and South America, 31 coming fromEurope, 16 from Asia, 7 are coming from Africa, and 7 are coming from Oceania.

The plan goes like this: these 100 selected folks that are susceptible to be Martian emigrants must take part in group challenges before the successful winners, which will be something between 24 and 40 people, will be announced later this year.

The remaining group will then have to undergo nearly 10 years of training while they will have enough time to rethink  and maintain the option to never be able to return once they leave Earth’s orbit. Moreover the candidates will have to prove their ability to live in difficult conditions, as well as work together under despite really harsh circumstances.

It is believed that at at least six groups of four will be trained in order to be ready for the trip to Mars. Also as a part of the mission, crews of four people will regularly be sent on a one-way trip to Mars every two years, starting in 2024.

In order to have everything ready for the new inhabitants, Mars One’s planed an unmanned mission due to launch in 2018. But still some exterior problems are likely to occur. For instance Mars One knows that it will need billions of dollars so as to conduct its Mars missions, along with a robotic rover mission that’s planned for launch in 2018.

“When you see what we do with this planet, what we do with each other, we still have wars, we are constantly doing the same mistakes again and when I heard two years ago that someone wants to build a new society on another planet I said I have to be a part of that,”

said Australian Gunnar Prehl, 41, who’s made it on the list. By and large the list of 100 includes both scientists or academics, as well as people who are simply looking for the ultimate adventure.

It goes without saying the the money issue is by far the biggest unknown right now. And apart from this, last year, an MIT study actually found that Mars One’s plan to send humans to Mars and also keep them alive on the way and once they get there, was an “overly optimistic” attempt, as far as technical grounds are concerned.

A new bionic leaf was designed by researchers at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and promises to convert solar energy into liquid fuel. The newly developed artificial leaf creates oxygen and hydrogen.

Afterwards a bacteria called Ralstonia eutropha, consumes the hydrogen and converts it into protons and electrons, which are integrated into molecules of carbon dioxide as part of the bacteria’s reproductive cycle.  Ralstonia eutropha has the ability to trigger a reaction between hydrogen and carbon dioxide in order to generate a biofuel known as isopropanol.

This new energy approach uses the bacteria to convert sunlight into fuel efficiently, thus creating a smart synthesis between artificial technology and biology.

“This is a proof of concept that you can have a way of harvesting solar energy and storing it in the form of a liquid fuel… we had a mission of wanting to interface some kinds of organisms with the harvesting of solar energy. It was a perfect match,”

said Pamela Silver from the Wyss Institute.

In other words the newly discovered bionic leaf imitates the process of photosynthesis. But the creation of this artificial leaf system was span over a decade long process. The catalysts used in the device are highly well-adapted and are also compatible with the conditions required for the bacterial growth.

Right now the artificial leaf has 1% efficiency rate regarding the creating of isopropanol as the efficiency rate is currently equal to the natural process in which photosynthesis turns sunlight into biomass. But the researchers are hoping they will reach 5% efficiency with the bionic leaf in a short time.

By and large, homes and businesses are likely to be powered by solar cells in the future, and vehicles will be powered by liquid fuel generated by bionic leafs. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week, talks about how the limitations of the artificial leaf were eventually overcome.

Actually Daniel Nocera initially pioneered an artificial leaf back in 2011, but the device was not ready for commercial production because of the lack of systems in place meant to collect, store and use the hydrogen gases produced by the leaf.

According to a new study, known as the Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains, because of climate change, Southwestern USA is soon believed to be facing the worst drought in 1,000 years. This is NASA’s most thorough research regarding draught prediction.

The American southwest region, along with other parts of this world are expected to face unprecedented megadroughts, because of the rising carbon emissions and global warming. Ben Cook, a NASA climate scientist explains the seriousness of the situation we’ll soon have to put up with:

“Recent droughts, like the ongoing drought in California and the southwest and historical droughts like the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, these are naturally occurring droughts that typically last several years or sometimes almost a decade. In our projections with climate change, what we’re seeing is that these droughts could last 20, 30, or even 40 years, even exceeding the duration of the long-term, intense megadroughts that characterised the really arid time period known as Medieval climate anomaly.”

The study was published last Thursday in the Science Advances journal, and is based on premises coming from several climate models, one sponsored by NASA being among them. The research undoubtedly found a continuous increase in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, which will definitely drive up the risk of severe droughts.

So in other words a megadrought is basically a drought that lasts more than three decades. We are currently facing a 12% risk of having a mega-drought. However In case greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues projected the likelihood of a megadrought to over 60%. Also in case greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase along current trajectories throughout the 21st century, there is an 80% probability of a decades-long mega-drought in the Southwest and Central Plains between 2050 and 2099.

In order to reach this result, researchers applied 17 climate models in order to analyse the future impact of rising temperatures on regions starting from Mexico and going through the United States and Canada.

Moreover they projected a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and also looked at a scenario in which they took some action so as to cut back on greenhouse gases that resulted in lower emissions. However both approaches are extremely pessimistic.

Here’s the video that explains it all:

The absolute astronomy highlight of the week is actually seeing the formation of a multiple-star system unveiling before our eyes. This definitely gave the science world a a revolutionary understanding regarding what happens before a star is born.

Capturing this exact phase of formation is particularly important because it is the one that determines the number of stars in that system. However it is usually hard to catch a glimpse of because of dust clouds and dense gas.

Researchers studied a dense core of gas, called Barnard 5, which is located in a young star-forming region of the constellation Perseus, 800 light-years from Earth.

The article was published in the latest issue of the Nature journal and it was led by a team of astronomers from England and United States. The research team was conducted by Jaime Pineda from the Institute for Astronomy at ETH Zurich. Observing the exact phase of the birth of a multiple star system offers some vital clues, like the frequency of planets, the formation of stars and planets and, most importantly, it offers valuable insight regarding habitability.

“Seeing such a multiple-star system in its early stages of formation has been a longstanding challenge, but the combination of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) has given us the first look at such a young system,”

said Jaime Pineda.

The authors were involved in mapping radio emissions coming from methane molecules in the proximity of a young proto-star when they detected some fragmenting filaments of gas that were condensing in order to form three new stars. But the universe takes its time, that’s foe sure, as these condensations are expected to gravitationally collapse and form stars as a consequence sometime during the next 40,000 years, which is a rather short period of time considering the astronomical standards.

Researchers are of the opinion that these stars in the system will eventually range between one-tenth and one-third the mass of our Sun. However the main question that rose came as a consequence regarded why our system has only with one star, while the nearest system, Alpha Centauri, has three.

According to new findings from a study conducted on 245 LGBT young adults from California aged 21 to 25, being open about one’s own sexuality while in school or high school paves the way for a more balanced life for the individual, with an increased self-esteem and fewer chances of getting depressed. The study was also supported by the Family Acceptance Project, which is a research and education initiative that takes place at the San Francisco State University. It is strongly involved in promoting the well-being of LGBT children and teenagers.

Being open while they are still adolescents makes it more easier for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people to integrate according to who they are and thus aids them establish their role and place in society with ease. Moreover the authors said in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry that trying to hide one’s true sexuality actually results in more abuse and a continually decreasing self-esteem.

So in other words, what it mandatory right now is to create the adequate environments in which young people feel safe and tolerated so as to be able to truly figure out who they are, or, as Stephen Russell, the study’s lead author said:

“supporting environments so that all kids can figure out and be as true to themselves as they can be. (…) “Until now, a key question about balancing the need to protect LGBT youth from harm while promoting their well-being has not been addressed: Do the benefits of coming out at school outweigh the increased risk of victimization?”

Russell is an expert on adolescent mental health at the University of Arizona in Tucson and decided to make this research when a high school in Okeechobee, Florida wanted to forbid students from creating an LGBT-straight alliance group. The students won the battle after all, but the question regarding their coming out while teenagers still remained.

In other words the study undoubtedly concluded that LGBT-influenced abuse during school was directly linked to difficult and negative adjustment throughout young adulthood. Trying to hide their sexuality only increased abuse.

Stephen Russell also underlined the need for this study to be done in other places throughout the U.S. as well.

Predator cats and foxes are on the verge of creating a new calamity: mammal species in Australia are being wiped off the surface of this planet. Experts actually call this strange phenomenon:“extinction calamity.” Foxes and cats brought mostly from Europe by the initial settlers are causing an unprecedented fast extinction rate. These phenomena are usually caused by human hunt or loss of habitat. But with the Australian mammals things stand differently.

“A further 56 Australian land mammals are now threatened, indicating that this extremely high rate of biodiversity loss is likely to continue unless substantial changes are made,”

said the leader of the research, conservation biologist John Woinarski.

This study was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. It basically proves that over 10% of the land mammal species endemic to Australia have been wiped out since the European settlement took place, back in 1788. 21% of the mammals are currently endangered, but not yet extinct.

In order to discover the cause of the massive and rapid extinction, scientists tracked the fate of all the country’s land and marine mammals ever since the first European settlers initially arrived in Australia. And much to their surprise they found the decline coincided with two animals arrival onto the Australian land: the feral cat, which was brought by sailors to Australia on ships as they kept the on-board rat populations at a low range, along with red foxes, which were brought to the continent for hunting.

The scientists explained that seven species that used to be widespread on the Australian land now only live on islands that haven’t been colonised by cats or foxes. Moreover they also found that unlike the rest of the world, where the risk of extinction is affecting much larger animals, the Australian mammals that are being killed to extinction are rather small, just a perfect meal size for a cat or a fox.

Another culprit identified by scientists regarding the mammals’ extinction rate is the different way in which the nation’s wildfires are handled and managed. Meaning that during the past years, indigenous Australians used to set small fires on a regular basis, fires that burned away dry brush, which is a perfect tinder for wildfires. But this practice is no longer common today, and therefore wildfires have a tendency to ignite more frequent and to spread more widely, making the mammals lose their food sources and compelling them to hide in places that protect them from the hungry cats and foxes.

According to an exclusive joint interview with The Associated Press, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg along with LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner are launching support programs at several colleges so as to get more women to take up studying technology. This initiative will hopefully help the two companies have more women employees.

Currently only 31% of all Facebook employees are women, 16% of them having jobs that are tech related. As far as  LinkedIn is concerned, women comprise 17% of the tech employees and 39% of the overall employees. And things look the same, or even worse for other related companies.

“Think about it,” Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, a partner in the initiative, said. “If everybody who creates a product looks the same, you know the results won’t be nearly as interesting. We want for the sake of our future to have women involved in all the projects that will change our lives.”

Sheryl Sandberg published a book in 2011 called “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” in which she raised the problem regarding the constantly diminishing the number of women in positions of power. She’s been trying to make a change with the help of her nonprofit organisation,, which actually provides a platform for the currently established groups.

Sandberg is of the opinion that gender equity is the key to a balanced outcome as far as serving users and clients is concerned. All in all the percentage of women who enrol in undergraduate computer science programs peaked at 35 percent back in 1985 and is down to about 17 percent currently.

The initiative is intended to go worldwide. Nevertheless the executives wouldn’t reveal how much the financial commitment they are making adds up to.Moreover the nature of this investment is somewhat different,  meaning that it focuses more on peer groups and on mentoring processes.

Girls studying fields such as computer engineering tend to get discouraged easily because of the male competition and attitude that includes sexist remarks as well. But this LinkedIn – Facebook joint venture is supposed to solve these problems too. Integration and confidence as well as the need to know that they are not alone is likely to give women a boost in order to pursue a tech related career, if this is what they wish for.

An initial concern regarding the link between artificially induced oxytocin and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been invalidated. The study was published on Feb. 9 in the online publication Pediatrics.

Oxytocin is a hormone involved in birth. And whenever a mother faces problems involving progressing during labour, she receives an artificial correspondent of this hormone that goes by its brand name – Pitocin, which is naturally produced by the mother’s body. This supplement gives the mother a boost in order to go on with the labor. This synthetic version of the hormone is commonly referred to as “augmentation.” It basically makes sure that the cervix will continue dilating and the baby will come out in a smoother manner.

The study was conducted by Mette Juhl, Ph.D., M.P.H., who is an associate professor of midwifery at the Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen, Denmark. Juhl and her colleagues looked at toddlers who had received an ADHD diagnosis on one hand, or a prescription for ADHD medication on the other hand. All in all they studied more than 546,000 Danish mothers.

Afterwards, out of this study group, they compared the 26% of the children born to mothers who received oxytocin for labor augmentation to the children of mothers who did not receive any outside boost. And they found that only 0.9% of the children who had been exposed to oxytocin were actually diagnosed with ADHD or treated for the condition.

“Animal studies have found that oxytocin is passed on from mother to fetus via the placental barrier, and that the fetal brain has been affected by exposure to oxytocin,” said Juhl.

But she explained that this doesn’t apply to humans. What really validates this theory is the large group of subjects they studied on. Half a million is an encouraging figure that can equally and fairly represent a majority.

Moreover the study’s finding according to which ADHD and oxytocin augmentation are unrelated is redeeming. But what scientists found regarding the ADHD occurence is that this condition is more present in children born to women under 20 years old, in the ones who had a gestational age of less than 32 weeks at delivery and in the ones who had weighted less than 6.35 pounds at the time of birth.

The US Red Cross has come under the scanner and asked by its parent group, International Red Cross to cease taking donations from Tobacco Companies. Tobacco has been indicted for causing many dreaded diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Major Tobacco companies are donating millions of dollars to the American Red Cross as a tax write off. This is tarnishing the image of American Red Cross. Donations taken from tobacco companies are often regarded as dirt money.

However abruptly stopping taking donations from tobacco companies is sure to affect the Red Cross kitty which are needed to finance providing  clothing, shelter, and medical assistance to those in need across the US and around the world.

American Red Cross came into existence in 1881 by the efforts of its founder Clara Barton. Barton had served for the International Red Cross overseas before he established the American Red Cross.

The US FDA has for the very first time approved dermal filler for treating scars left by acne. It is estimated that there are 40 to 50 million people who suffer from acne.

The dermal filler is essentially made of bovine cartilage and has been christened as Bellafill. When injected it is designed in a way to raise and smoothen scars so that it is merges with the level of the adjoining skin. The procedure is only done in patients above 21.

Acne has been dubbed the bane of the teens. Though a number of treatments are available including gels and laser, the success ratio was low. Scars left behind by acne are deep and may or may not get filled.

Dr. Ava Shamban, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA, who was involved in the Bellafill study, told Reuters, “Until now, multiple laser treatments or other injectables have been used but are limited both in terms of efficacy and longevity and are hampered by potential side effects.”

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