Ponca City, OK

All About Science – In Science, This Just In…

THE PARKER Solar Probe surpassed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun's surface last week.

THE PARKER Solar Probe surpassed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun’s surface last week.

If you were listening to the news, you heard several stories that were science-based.

In the past ten days, there have been several discoveries and technological advances that were highlighted in the news.

For example, in the area of health, an announcement was made that scientists are not only sequencing DNA/RNA but now they are sequencing proteins as well. Understanding how proteins are constructed has many potential applications, everything from better drugs and cancer treatments to the development of “cultured meat,” meat that does not come from animals. While this may sound a bit unappetizing, there may be a need for such sources of protein for food, if one is traveling to Mars or living on a space station.

This laboratory-grown meat or the techniques used to develop it may also be beneficial for synthetic tissues and reconstructive surgeries in the future. Have an injury? Maybe, a laboratory-grown tissue may help, especially if the tissue uses components from your own body.

How about this news that you can use? Are you a bird watcher? Do you want more songbirds to come to your particular bird feeder? University of Delaware profess Doug Tallamy has conducted research that shows that the breeding success of many birds may be impacted by your landscaping choices. If you choose to use non-native species, the insects that many species rely upon for food may be in short supply. Dr. Tallamy indicated that there are approximately 432 species, this is approximately one-third of birds, are insectivorous. Since many insects have co-evolved with the plants in their environments, the introduction of non-native species of plants has a direct impact on the potential food supply for these birds.

So, if you want to see more birds, you may wish to reconsider your landscaping. There are also other added benefits of using native plants, they survive our local climate better, and you may also reduce your water consumption.

Do you follow records?

Well, one was set on October 29, 2018. The Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for the closest approach to the sun by a human-made object. According to NASA, the probe passed the record set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976 of 26.55 miles from the sun’s surface. The probe also surpassed 153,454 miles per hour as calculated by the mission team, making it the fastest ever human-made object relative to the sun.

The probe is going to repeatedly break records during its mission. It is anticipated that the probe will hit its closest approach at 3.8 million miles from the sun’s surface and have a top speed of 430,000 miles per hour in 2024.

Then there were two significant stories related to health.

The first was about the development of a model that maps the effect of the misfolding of proteins in the brain. Based upon the current information available, scientists believe that this may help us understand how neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, spread through the brain. By using this type of model, it is hoped better treatments can be developed for Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, ALS, and dementia. And, what is cool about this work is that it is being published in Physical Review Letters, the physicists are working with medical professionals and chemists to understand an extremely complex issue.

Then there was the story about friendly or good bacteria.

We are beginning to understand that a sterile environment may not be an ideal environment. With the increase in Cesarean sections (C-section) for births, there has also been an increase in asthma, allergies, eczema, and obesity. While it should be cautioned that there may not be a direct correlation between these conditions and being born by C-section, there is a working hypothesis that the sterile conditions associated with a C-section might interfere with some naturally occurring processes that are necessary for good health.

Hence, a practice of introducing good bacteria to the baby at the time of birth. Interesting idea, and there is a new study to look at the practice as well as trying to find out whether or not there is a real correlation present.

Who knows what the next science news story will be? But, keep your ears open, and you might find out that there is a great deal of science that is happening out there.

Editor’s Note: This is a series of science-related articles by author Frankie Wood-Black, Ph.D., REM, MBA, to appear in the Mid-Week section of the Ponca City News. The author currently runs her own environmental consulting firm based in Ponca City, Sophic Pursuits Inc., and also serves as a Physics Instructor and the Director for Process Technology at Northern Oklahoma College.

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