Flu season is here, but parents have a new condition to be worried about for their kids: Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM. It has been making headlines as alarming numbers of children are being paralyzed in a pattern that resembles polio scares in the past.
AFM has been in existence for a long time, but the recent rise in cases is what’s signaling danger. Polio was eradicated in the United States in 1979, however at this point in time there is no such future hope for AFM.
This dreaded condition has several possible causes including viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. Symptoms often follow an infection and high fever. The suspected viruses that may cause AFM include poliovirus or non-polio enteroviruses, West Nile Virus and adenoviruses.
Although adults may contract this condition, most cases are in those under 18 years old. Symptoms parents should look out for include the sudden onset of drooping eyelids, difficulty moving the eyes, loss of reflexes or weakness in the limbs.
One of the more dangerous aspects of this condition is when the muscles of the lungs are affected, causing respiratory distress. Medical help should be sought immediately upon finding any of these or similar symptoms.
Scans, such as MRIs, of the spinal cord and brain will assist in the diagnosis of AFM. It is important to rule out other conditions such as Guillain-Barre that may have similar symptoms.
We currently do not have a specific treatment for AFM, but neurologists and physical therapists can sometimes recommend methods to help relieve symptoms.
The best prevention is common sense advice that would help to avoid any type of infection. Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water to avoid germs from others, and wear insect repellent to avoid mosquito bites that may transmit the West Nile Virus.
Biologist and photographer Francesco Tomasinelli is willing to go where few others are: damp caves where the floors, walls and ceilings are crawling with living creatures.
Once there, he pauses to take beautiful and unusual photographs. He has captured giant cockroaches eating a dead bat, a snail slowly attacking a moth, and walls blanketed with crawling insects. Needless to say, the subjects of his images include endless numbers of spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and all manner of creatures that are the stuff of nightmares.
Tomasinelli says, “We are not used to considering small insects and specialized spiders that live in caves as noteworthy animals. But in recent years it has been discovered that these organisms can give us valuable indications to better understand the effects of climate change on ecosystems.” He was involved in a project called CAVELAB and has photographed in caves in Italy and Borneo.
The idea of bacteria creeping through your body might be less than appetizing. We often associate the presence of bacteria in our bodies (especially in our digestive system) with infections, viruses, and food poisonings. However, scientific findings have uncovered the fact that there are also many types of good bacteria that are essential to our health. This collection of good and bad bacteria within our bodies have also been discovered to be strikingly diverse from person to person.
The definition of the human microbiome is still somewhat ambiguous and disputed, but is commonly known to be the vast ecosystem of microscopic organisms (microbes) living within us. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), we consist of 10-100 trillion microbiota, also known as microbial cells. These cells hold genes that determine cell behavior.
Scientists have become specifically interested in the gut (our stomach and intestines) as a location that holds a notably vast collection of microbes. Believe it or not, the large intestine houses good bacteria, such as probiotics, that fight the bad bacteria and keeps us healthy. The ratio of good bacteria to bad can change and partly depends on your immune system or diet choices. If good bacteria becomes low in numbers, risk of infection and virus development increases.
One of the fascinating aspects of our microbiomes is that everyone's is distinctly unique. We, as humans, have a much different microbiome than other animals, but ours also differ from person to person. Even the collection of organisms in your mouth is different than the community of organisms in your gut.
Because each person's microbiome is so individualized, researchers are recognizing that this information could be valuable for practical usage in medicine. A patient's microbiome could be used similarly to a fingerprint, but instead of merely identifying the patient, medical professionals could gain a better understanding about what is going on within the patient's body and be able to make more educated predictions about procedures and treatments needed.
As more and more scientific findings about this topic surface, it becomes increasingly more exciting to find out how this knowledge will help us solve many unanswered questions that have to do with anatomical behavior, virus prevention, and even evolution. Our microbiomes seem to be the mysterious key that could open many doors to the understanding of the human body.
Science Source is pleased to announce it is now offering the Natural History Museum of London’s Collection online!
Completed in 1881, the Museum of Natural History in London, was one of the first museums designed for the public. Unlike its predecessors, it no longer required an application for entry and offered labels on everything on display.
Today the Museum remains a center for culture and education in London. It’s permanent collection contains some 80 million objects, including fossils, rocks, minerals, insects and taxidermy animals.
With multiple education programs, such as the famous “How Science Works” program, which offers hands on workshops with micro fossils, the museum is an ideal location for science enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.
Explore the collection’s many photographs of skeletons, bird eggs and fossils, illustrations of prehistoric creatures and much more!
Can’t make it to the gift shop? Head to our storefront below for great fossil products!
Zombies? Science Fiction? Fantasy? No, it’s the very real flu virus, cold virus, rabies, HIV, ebola or any other viruses.
Viruses are microscopic nonliving organisms that can only reproduce by hijacking the production mechanism inside a living host’s cells. The virus replicates itself until the cell bursts, spreading the virus further. This usually means death to each cell that becomes infected. If the host’s immune system cannot destroy the virus, ultimately it can mean a very bad outcome for the host as well.
They differ from bacteria in that bacteria are alive, reproduce through fission (splitting apart) and carry on metabolic functions such as digestion.
Viruses cannot reproduce on their own. They need to attach themselves to a host’s cells and inject it with their DNA/RNA, taking over the cell’s “machinery” to manufacture and reproduce. This continues until the cell literally bursts. The new viruses go on the hunt for more cells to continue this cycle.
Viruses are 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria. Common water filters can block bacteria, however viruses can pass through many common filters.
Many bacteria are beneficial and even necessary for human existence. Our digestive tracts are filled with good bacteria - Normal Flora - that help break down food and even produce vitamins, such as vitamin K, that are critical to our well-being.
We all know there are also harmful bacteria such as Streptococcus pyogenes that causes strep throat or E. coli that causes food poisoning.
But there are no beneficial viruses that we know of. In fact, a type of virus called a bacteriophage even infects and kills bacteria.
Antibiotics are useless against viruses. Antibiotics only kill off bacteria, which is why doctors will only prescribe them once they are certain an illness is caused by a bacteria and not a virus.
Even though antiviral drugs do exist, they aren’t even able to kill viruses. They only limit a virus’s ability to develop further.
The best methods for keeping safe from these dangerous invaders in the first place is to practice basic hygiene and common sense. Washing your hands frequently, getting the flu shot, staying clear of wild animals that may carry rabies such as raccoons and avoiding contact with anyone already infected especially if they coughing or sneezing, are some of the leading precautions you can take.
Have you ever wanted to step into an old etching or explore the laboratories of your favorite scientists and inventors? Short of magic, video montages provide the next best thing!
Peer into Herschel’s telescope as he gazes at the cosmos from his observatory or follow a beam of light as it refracts into a rainbow in Newton’s laboratory.
Beyond the fun, video montages have an educational value. By linking images together, montages provide historic continuity, allowing people to see the connections between scientific discoveries. An etching from Isaac Newton’s life may tell you something about his findings in optics, but a group of images reveal how they led to further insights in physics.
Montages also bring clarity to scientific discoveries. By zeroing in on a lab experiment, montages highlight key components involved in the scientific process. Panning and scrolling help viewers understand the causes and effects involved in experiments, giving them a better understanding of how science works.
As classic images enter the digital sphere, video montages are providing a unique and fun visual aid for designers and educators alike. Take a closer look below!
Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest type of cancer that develops within the female reproductive system. High fatality rates point to the unsettling fact that most patients don’t get diagnosed with the disease until the cancerous cells have spread to other areas of the body.
As the name suggests, ovarian cancer is defined as cancerous tissue (tumors) within the ovaries. The ovaries produce eggs that can eventually form an embryo, so they are an essential part of the female reproductive system. They also create a large supply of estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones that the female body relies on for homeostasis.
This condition begins as any other cancer does; when the DNA within the body’s cells becomes mutated. Research is still being conducted to find out whether these mutations initially develop within the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Once the DNA mutation occurs, abnormal cells develop and rapidly reproduce, building up malignant (cancerous) tissue. This tissue can be classified into a few different categories. If the tumor is located on the outer area of the ovary it is considered an epithelial tumor. If the tumor is created from the cells involved in the egg production process, it is called a germ cell tumor. Stromal tumors are created from the cells that are involved in the hormone production process.
If the tumor stays only within the ovary, the cancer is still considered early-phase. Advanced-phase sets in when the tissue metastasizes and moves to other areas such as the pelvis.
During the development of these tumors, noticeable symptoms of ovarian cancer tend to be rare, especially in the early phase. Even after the cancer has progressed into the advanced stage, symptoms are ambiguous and can easily be associated with much more mild health conditions. Most wouldn’t guess that bloating in the abdomen, weight loss, or general pelvic discomfort would be connected specifically to ovarian tumors. This is a significant reason why the disease is so deadly.
The good news is that the amount of diagnoses in the U.S. have been decreasing slowly throughout the past few decades. Although there is nothing we can do to completely prevent onset of the disease, staying healthy and avoiding hormone replacements can lower the risk. Early detection is key, so staying in tune with any bodily changes and going to the doctor when in doubt are proactive ways to ensure the best possible outcome for your body.
Exotic beauty hides a deadly beast. The lionfish is but one of over 4,000 invasive species found in the United States doing damage to wildlife, plants, our economy and our health.
An invasive species, also called alien species, is a non-native plant or animal that may have no natural enemies and possibly possess other advantages that allow it to propagate to such a degree that it causes damage.
This may include the killing of already endangered plants, habitat loss, damaging crops, clogging pipes in power plants or otherwise wreaking havoc. Their success makes them impossible to eradicate and very difficult to control.
One example, the lionfish, is of great concern in the Southern United States, killing off 65% of the local fish population within two years. Some of these prey fish are critical for cleaning the coral, so the coral reefs are also dying off.
It's believed this invasion was caused by a few pet lionfish owners releasing them into the wild from their home aquariums.
The lionfish has no natural predator in the United States. It is carnivorous and eats voraciously. A single female lionfish can lay over two million eggs a year.
Lionfish are difficult to eradicate because they hang out on the sea floor, up to 1,000 ft down. They cannot be caught by nets, nor by fishing hook and line. A diver needs to spear them one at a time. Their venomous sting is 50 times more painful than a wasp's and can take months to heal. Divers need to carry special hard-shelled containers for their catches to protect themselves from the lionfish barbs.
This is one of approximately 4,300 invasive species currently causing loss of wildlife and income in the United States.
How do invasive species get here? People, and the goods we use, travel around the world very quickly and often carry uninvited species with them.
As people become more aware of invasive species and how to prevent them, the situation can improve.
In the case of the lionfish, people have discovered it is delicious to eat. High demand from restaurants is now putting a dent in the lionfish population. The lionfish will never be eradicated, but as long as we have hungry diners, there's a chance of getting them under control.
In a Wizard of Oz moment, artists are bringing full color to black and white images, while chronicling the past in a never before seen way.
Beyond their aesthetic appeal, colorized images play an important role in education. The famous image of Pavlov with his dogs is recognizable to many but not everyone notices all the tools involved in his findings. Digital coloring highlights these areas, helping students understand how Pavlov made his important discoveries in psychology.
In scientific images, digital color can locate everything from stars to microbes in the gray scale of SEMs and old photos, making them perfect for textbooks and other publications.
Colorized images also have a historic significance. Black and white photographs may depict an event in the past but fail to capture the full appearance of an era. Historians have recently discovered that many sculptures from ancient Greece were painted. Now artists can reintroduce this color, revealing the past in a more authentic way.
As we move forward with technology and our understanding of science and history, colorized images are playing an important role in enhancing the accuracy and beauty of stock images. Explore more in the links above.
Did you know that your body houses millions of vessels that are circulating blood at this very moment? In fact, if all the blood vessels in the average adult were connected in one line from beginning to end, they would stretch 100,000 miles. The circulatory (or cardiovascular) system carries blood all throughout your body to transport nutrients, allow for essential body functions like breathing, and maintain an overall homeostasis.
Arteries, veins and capillaries are the three different types of blood vessels that make blood circulation possible. Veins transport deoxygenated or waste-rich blood that will eventually be filtered, and arteries carry the filtered, oxygenated blood. Capillaries are the middle man of blood circulation, as they enable the exchange of blood between arteries and veins.
There are two types of blood circulation: pulmonary and systemic. Pulmonary circulation is the transportation of blood to the lungs so that the blood becomes oxygenated and can return to the heart. This oxygenated blood is then used within systemic circulation.
During systemic circulation, the heart pumps oxygenated blood out to the rest of the body through the arteries. Capillaries deoxygenate the blood by swapping out the oxygen with carbon dioxide, and they then deliver the deoxygenated blood to the veins. The veins carry the deoxygenated blood back to the heart to start the pulmonary cycle over again.
This intricate and elegant system is happening constantly within your body. Without it, you would have no digestive system or immune system, and even your hormones wouldn't be able to be expressed.
Staying healthy, hydrating, and exercising regularly can help ensure that you're taking care of your circulatory system and everything is flowing smoothly.
You may associate nature and medical illustration with dusty old tomes, but it's more relevant and beautiful than ever. In a world that's getting more complicated and where technical knowledge can make or break careers, precise and informative illustration is more critical than ever.
Illustration can show the unseen and explain the unclear. Think about a photograph of internal human anatomy. Even if it is a high resolution, super sharp image, it may still be difficult to decipher. A science or medical illustration, on the other hand, can show each anatomical part in a different color, label it, and indicate its function. Unimportant details can be left out and critical information highlighted.
In many cases, a photograph can't display the same level of detail as a well-designed illustration. Volcanos are spectacular on the outside but their inner workings are hidden from view without a well placed cross-section. Illustrations can also represent processes such as DNA sequencing and distinctions between organisms that are similar in appearance, such as bacteria and viruses.
To this day scientific illustrations play an important role in the education of doctors, geologists, paleontologists, physicists and many other careers.
With the advancement of 2D and 3D software and the continued efforts of talented scientific artists, illustration will continue to play an important role in the future of science education.
Do you remember the monkey chef on daytime TV, tea time with the family collie and the elephant conga line at the traveling circus?
Get reacquainted with Retro Animals! Revisit the show dogs of the golden era, the loyal companions of the boy scouts and the neighborhood heroes of the local fire department.
As levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rise from man-made emissions, the likelihood of extreme weather is increasing. Over recent decades, scientists have seen a trend of increased storm activity along with higher temperatures.
Drought, flooding, deadly hurricanes, and tornadoes are now more common around the world. Along with loss of life and property, animals are also struggling to survive.
Hurricanes, also called typhoons or cyclones, form near the equator, over warm ocean water. As the water evaporates, it creates clouds that rise, allowing cooler air to swirl in beneath them.
As the ascending air cools, it descends, creating moving air masses. The earth's rotation moves them, making the system spin faster. Eventually, the air speeds up and an area of calm air forms in the center, called the eye of the hurricane.
The system continues to move over warm water, picking up more evaporated water and growing stronger.
When a tropical storm reaches 74 mph or higher it becomes a hurricane. Speeds beyond 157 mph or higher make it a category 5 or Catastrophic Storm.
2017 was the costliest hurricane season on record with estimated damages at $282.16 billion. It was also amongst the most active, featuring several category 5 hurricanes.
Worldwide, heavy rains, tornadoes, floods and other forms of extreme weather continue to increase.
In the Atlantic, hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th with peaks in August, September & October. If you live or are traveling in the area, stay alert to warnings from your local weather service and be prepared.
One group of creatures produces 70% of the earth's oxygen and also consumes carbon dioxide at an astonishing rate. They are phytoplankton, mostly microscopic, single-celled organisms.
Phytoplankton come in many shapes and forms. The majority are single-celled plants, but some are bacteria, and others are protists. Common types of phytoplankton are cyanobacteria, green algae, diatoms, dinoflagellates, and coccolithophores.
Phytoplankton play an essential role in human life in that they produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe, much more than terrestrial plants.
They are part of the carbon cycle, as they consume atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 resides naturally in the atmosphere, but human beings, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels, have released ever greater amounts into the atmosphere.
Along with CO2, phytoplankton need sunlight and other nutrients to survive.
Aside from providing oxygen, phytoplankton are a significant part of the food chain which includes everything from other tiny zooplankton to shrimp, fish, and whales.
At certain times, phytoplankton grow at an explosive rate for days or weeks, creating what is called a 'bloom.' These blooms may last several weeks, even though individual phytoplankton live for only a few days. Despite being microscopic individuals, phytoplankton blooms can be hundreds of square miles and seen from outer space.
Pollution can trigger an algae bloom. Such as when raw sewage is dumped into the local waters, a common occurrence in New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary.
It sets off the process of eutrophication. Bacteria and other runoff stimulates the overgrowth of algae, these eventually die, and the bacteria eating the dead algae or plankton use up the oxygen in the water. Thereby creating hypoxia, the suffocation of other species living in the water.
Sometimes phytoplankton overgrowth can produce biotoxins, killing marine life and people who eat this marine life. 'Red tide' is a type of toxic algal bloom.
By providing most of our oxygen and being a major food source, these tiny creatures are indeed a fascinating link in the chain of life
One of the more fun classes in high school was chemistry lab, especially on the days when you made things explode or catch fire...on purpose.
Relive those good old days with our videos of exploding chemistry experiments.
The Barking Dog experiment and the Rainbow Clock were very popular. But it's hard to beat the surprisingly loud explosion of a nitrogen triiodide explosion when it's touched lightly by a feather.
And no one expects a tiny piece of metal dropped into water to steam, hiss, dance about and eventually explode, but lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), and caesium (Cs) do exactly that.
Here's what happens in each reaction:
Let's check what happens if we would drop a pea-size piece of metal in water.
Lithium just sizzles on top of the water, but doesn't explode.
Sodium floats on top of the water, then ignites with a yellow-orange flame and also doesn't explode.
Potassium floats and skitters around violently, then ignites with a violet flame, and explodes.
Rubidium sinks, reacts very violently and then explodes.
Caesium explodes on impact with the water giving off a huge cloud of smoke.
Kinda makes you want to go back to school and study chemistry again.