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How much coffee should you drink to stay awake? Army answers with new algorithm

Researchers with the U.S. Army have come with an algorithm that can determine the perfect amount of caffeine a person needs to drink to stay at maximum alertness, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Sleep Research.

>> Read more trending news

The study’s lead author, Jaques Reifman, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Army, said the algorithm is the first of its kind.

Researchers used a mathematical model that predicts the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on a person’s attention and reaction time, combined with the algorithm to determine “when and how much caffeine to consume to safely maximize alertness during sleep loss,” according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Researchers presented their findings Monday at SLEEP 2018, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

The algorithm used a person’s sleep and wake schedule along with his or her “maximum allowed caffeine” to determine the perfect caffeine-dosing strategy, according to the study authors.

“We found that by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” Reifman said. “Alternatively, a subject can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65 percent and still achieve equivalent improvements in alertness.”

The Army is already using the algorithm for its soldiers-in-training and has plans to license it for wider use as a smartphone app, Government Technology magazine reported.

Scientists first published the study, “Caffeine dosing strategies to optimize alertness during sleep loss,” May 28 in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Tanning beds costing millions in U.S. medical bills, study finds

The rosy glow of indoor tanning pales in comparison to the millions of dollars in medical costs associated with tanning beds.

>> Read more trending news

study, published in the Journal of Cancer Policy, found that tanning beds caused more than 250,000 cases of skin cancer and 1,200 deaths in 2015, at a cost of more than $340 million in medical bills.

“The use of tanning devices is a significant contributor to illness and premature mortality in the U.S., and also represents a major economic burden in terms of the costs of medical care and lost productivity,” researchers from the University of North Carolina concluded.

Previous studies have found significant health risks in the use of tanning beds because they emit UV-A and UV-B rays, which have been linked to cell damage, including DNA mutations and skin cancers.

Scientists called indoor tanning “a public health hazard in the United States,” estimating that some 30 million people use tanning devices at least once a year and an estimated 35 percent of adults in the U.S. have used the devices.

A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found some 13 percent of students in the 9th through the 12th grades used a tanning bed at least once a year, too.

Ultimately researchers said they hoped information in this study and others like it will help reduce the use of tanning beds.

    

SpaceX launches satellite using new Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX’s newest rocket launched Friday afternoon from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying the Bangabandhu Satellite-1.

>> Read more trending news

The Block 5  rocket later successfully landed on the drone ship, rather than on one of the landing pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX’s new-generation Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket carried a geostationary communication satellite for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. It will be the first communications satellite launched for Bangladesh.

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The Block 5, which was designed to be reusable. Improvements include a reusable heat shield that protects the rocket’s engines and titanium.

SpaceX officials said they can reuse each Falcon 9 booster up to 100 times. They can turn around a booster for reuse in 48 hours.

The communications satellite will provide broadcasting and other communications services across Bangladesh.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

NASA launches InSight on mission to Mars

NASA sent InSight hurtling into space toward Mars on Saturday, launching the rocket from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

It marked the first time a space mission to another planet originated from the West Coast instead of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

If there are no glitches, the 790-pound probe will land on the Martian surface Nov. 26. It will join five other NASA spacecraft operating on and above the planet’s surface, CNN reported.

Bruce Banerdy, the mission’s lead investigator, told CNN that InSight will provide valuable information to scientists.

"We have mapped the surface of the entire planet in terms of visible features, topography, gravity and magnetic fields," he said. "We have studied the atmosphere, both globally and at the surface. We have roved around the surface at four different places, studying the geology and piecing together the history of the surface. But until now, the vast regions of the planet deeper than a few miles, or so, (have) been almost completely unknown to us.

"InSight will change that with a single stroke."

Study gets to the root of why your hair turns gray

Spotting a few gray strands on your head? If you’re wondering how they got there, scientists may have an answer, according to a new report. 

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Birmingham recently conducted a study to determine why hair loses its pigment. 

To find out, researchers examined mice. They specifically monitored how the immune system’s response to attacks affects the MITF gene, a protein that helps melanocytes function properly. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for melanin, which gives our eyes, skin and hair their color. 

After analyzing their observations, they found that the MITF gene likely also controls the release of interferons, a protein that fights off viral infections. When there isn’t enough MITF, the animals in the experiment produced an excess of interferons, forcing the immune system to attack the melanocytes and causing the growth of non-pigmented or gray hairs.

The scientists do not know if their observations will transfer to humans. However, they believe their research may explain why some individuals go gray earlier in life. 

“Perhaps, in an individual who is healthy yet predisposed for gray hair, getting an everyday viral infection is just enough to cause the decline of their melanocytes and melanocyte stem cells leading to premature gray hair,” co-author Melissa Harris said in a statement.

While she noted an infection doesn’t guarantee gray hair, “this study highlights just one mechanism that helps us better understand biological contributions to the visible signs of aging.”

Want to learn more about the findings? The results were published in PLOS Biology.

World's oldest spider, 43, killed by wasp sting

“O death, where is thy sting?”

For the world’s oldest known spider, that biblical verse took on new meaning after the arachnid was killed by a wasp sting, Time reported.

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The spider, tabbed as Number 16 by Australian scientists, died after a record 43 years, researchers said Monday.

The female trapdoor tarantula lived in Western Australia’s Central Wheatbelt area, according to Agence France-Press reports. The spider broke the record of the previous spider, a tarantula that lived for 28 years in Mexico, according to a study published in January in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology. Number 16 was observed during a spider population study in 1974, Time reported.

“To our knowledge, this is the oldest spider ever recorded, and her significant life has allowed us to further investigate the trapdoor spider’s behavior and population dynamics,” said Curtin University’s Leanda Mason, the study’s lead author.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mason said team members were “really miserable” over the spider’s death, TheTelegraph reported.

Trapdoor spiders are common in Australia and typically live between five and 20 years, according to the Australian Museum.

Massive child sacrifice discovered in Peru

A grisly discovery by archaeologists in Peru may be evidence of the largest child sacrifice in history, National Geographic reported.

>> Read more trending news

The remains of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas that were sacrificed 550 years ago have been found on Peru’s northern coast, National Geographic reported. The remains were found on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, once home to the capital of the Chimú Empire.

An international team led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are continuing.

Human sacrifices carried out by the Aztec, Maya and Incas of the Western Hemisphere have been documented, but this discovery is unprecedented, National Geographic reported.

“I, for one, never expected it,” Verano told National Geographic. "And I don't think anyone else would have, either."

The sacrifice site, known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is located on a low bluff just a thousand feet from the ocean. At its height, the Chimú Empire controlled a 600-mile-long territory along the Pacific coast and interior valleys from the modern Peru-Ecuador border to Lima.

Huanchaquito-Las Llamas made news in 2011 when the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas were found. Prieto was excavating a 3,500-year-old temple near the sacrifice site when local residents told him about human remains at nearby coastal dunes, National Geographic reported.

When the excavations had ended, archaeologists found more than 140 sets of children’s remains and 200 juvenile llamas. Rope and textiles found near the remains were dated between 1400 and 1450, National Geographic reported.

Skeletal remains showed evidence of cuts in the sternum and rib dislocations, which suggests the victims’ chests were cut open and their hearts were likely removed.

The 140 children ranged in age from about 5 to 14; the llamas were less than 18 months old, National Geographic reported.

Lyrid meteor shower 2018: 8 stunning photos of the celestial display

This year's Lyrid meteor shower reached its peak this weekend, and photographers flocked to social media to share some stunning snapshots of the celestial display.

See the images below:

>> MORE: Lyrid meteor shower 2018: When, where and how to watch | More trending news 

What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events.

But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know:

>> Read more trending news 

1. When did Earth Day start?

The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 22 million people across the country came out in support of environmental reform.

"That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America," Gaylord Nelson wrote in the April 1980 edition of the EPA Journal. "It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the nation.

"It showed political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang."

Since then, celebrations have only grown. This year, organizers estimate more than one billion people in 192 countries will participate in events the world over. The day is celebrated each year on April 22.

>> Target’s Earth Day car seat recycling program offers 20 percent off new car seat, stroller

2. Is there a theme for Earth Day 2018?

This year, organizers are focusing on curbing plastic pollution.

"Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics," the Earth Day Network, which partners with tens of thousands of organizations in 192 countries to organize Earth Day events, said on its website.

The organization also said it "will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems."

Read more here.

>> Antarctica's ice retreating 5 times faster than normal, study reveals

3. How are people celebrating?

In Tokyo, thousands of people will attend beach cleanups, concerts, art exhibits, classes and other events coordinated by the Green Room Festival, according to the Earth Day Network. In India's Karnataka state, a "no plastic" event will feature workshops led by "organizations that are champions of environmental sustainability in fields including electric vehicles, solar power and zero-waste living," the network said. Cleanups also were scheduled in Palm Beach, Florida; New York; New Jersey and other locations across the United States and worldwide.

Read more here.

4. What are businesses doing?

Google marked Earth Day with a "video doodle" featuring primatologist Jane Goodall. 

>> Click here to watch

“It is so important in the world today that we feel hopeful and do our part to protect life on Earth," Goodall said. "I am hopeful that this Earth Day Google Doodle will live as a reminder for people across the globe that there is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that is beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm, to help protect species and their environments. And there are so, so many young people, like those in JGI’s Roots & Shoots program, dedicated to making this a better world. With all of us working together, I am hopeful that it is not too late to turn things around, if we all do our part for this beautiful planet.”

Read more about the doodle here.

Apple also joined in on the celebrations, announcing on April 19 that "for every device received at Apple stores and apple.com through the Apple GiveBack program from now through April 30, the company will make a donation to the nonprofit Conservation International."

In addition, Apple "debuted Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhone to recover valuable materials," according to a company press release.

“At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives, said in a statement. “In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.”

Read more here.

>> Tips for celebrating the 20th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom

5. How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get into the Earth Day spirit, from participating in a local event to changing your bills from paper to paperless. Here are some suggestions from the Earth Day Network:

  • Urge your local elected officials or businesses to make a substantial tree planting commitment by starting a letter-writing campaign or online petition.

  • Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible.

  • Pick up trash at a local park or beach.

  • Set up a screening of an environmentally themed movie. Consider supplementing the screening with a speaker who can lead a Q&A following the film.

Immunotherapy plus chemo doubles lung cancer survival, study says

Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for lung cancer. However, immunotherapy may be able to help double a patient’s survival, according to a new report.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from New York University’s Perlmutter Cancer Center recently conducted a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, to determine which treatments were most effective for those newly diagnosed with lung cancer.

To do so, they examined 616 people with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer from 118 international sites. The participants did not have genetic changes in the EGFR or ALK genes, which have both been linked to the rapid reproduction of cells. 

>> Related: Healing process after breast cancer surgery could cause cancer to spread in mice, study says

About 400 of the subjects underwent pembrolizumab, a form of immunotherapy that helps destroy cancer cells; platinum therapy, a procedure that uses cell damaging agents; and pemetrexed, a chemotherapy drug that targets the lungs. The other 200 only received platinum therapy and pemetrexed with a saline placebo. 

After analyzing the results, they found the risk of death was reduced by 51 percent for those treated with pembrolizumab, platinum therapy and pemetrexed, compared with those who only got chemo. Furthermore, those with the combined therapy also had a 48 percent decreased chance of progression or death. 

>> Related: Groundbreaking 'cancer vaccine' set for human trials by the end of the year

Suresh Ramalingam, deputy director at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the finding is “very important” as “it moves the milestone forward.”

“This study shows that by combining the two treatments, you can maximize or even improve patient outcomes. From that standpoint, it does shift the treatment approach to lung cancer in a positive way,” said Ramalingam, who was not a part of the trial.

By using both approaches together, doctors can create a multiplying effect. During chemotherapy, cells die and leave behind protein. Immunotherapy activates the immune system, aiding its ability to kill any remaining cancer cells.

>> Related: New cancer 'vaccine' completely wipes out tumors in mice -- human trials are on way

The NYU researchers did note there are severe side effects to the combination treatment, including nausea, anemia, fatigue and an increased risk of acute kidney injury. 

However, Ramalingam believes the trial gives experts the ammunition to test the approach in many other cancers. He also said there are several ways to treat different types of the disease, and people should understand that some tumors may need to be tackled differently.

For example, he recently led a separate, large clinical trial that targeted lung cancer patients with the EGFR mutation, unlike the NYU analysts. As a result of his findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the use of a lung cancer pill called Tagrisso to those with the EGFR gene.

>> Related: Pharmaceutical company touts 'breakthrough' cancer treatment

While it was initially only used for individuals whose lung cancer worsened after treatment with other EGFR therapies, Ramalingam and his team proved the medication almost doubled the survival outcome for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients with the EGFR mutation. In fact, it resulted in better outcomes than chemotherapy and immunotherapy. 

“Given all these exciting advances that there are in lung cancer, patients should not settle for what’s been told,” Ramlingam recommended. “Basically get a second option or go to a major center that specializes in lung cancer to make sure they’re getting the cutting-edge treatment options that are out there.”

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