Thursday, September 6, 2012

Top 10...Errr, Top 4.5 Science Links For August

Here are my top 4.5 favorite articles I've read online this past month.  With them I've included a brief summary and why I enjoyed it.  (Note, they are not really ranked, I enjoyed all of them, so the numbers are just to keep track.)  I was going to do top 10, but the month got away from me, with the move.  The reason it is 4.5 is because I included another link without comment.  Perhaps we could have a discussion about link 4.5?  Read it, and let me know if you have any questions.

     This article discusses the recent discovery of planets orbiting a binary star system.  We've seen this type of system in the movies but this is the first time we have observed multiple planets around a system like this.  This discovery was made by the Kepler Mission, a NASA mission to discover exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars.  (exo-meaning outside of our solar system) AKA extrasolar planets).  Why did I include this?  Well not only is this REALLY COOL science, but it pushes our understanding of how a solar system forms.
     Remember, science is like cleaning out a closet, the room is going to get messy when you pull all the stuff out of the closet, but in the end everything is better.  Asking questions in science is the same way, the answer you think you are going to get is often not there, instead you find more questions which you must then answer. 
    Why I loved this article is because it highlights an interesting side of science.  Basically this:  Scientists like small easy to manage problems.  Sounds good right?  The problem is that the real world is very interconnected, there are a lot of variables that are hard to manage and to measure all of them all the time.  This is one reason that the weather report is highly variable.  Calling for rain all week?  Well it was cloudy Monday...  Then it was sunny all week.  There are many global variables to track in weather prediction.  The same is true for all areas of science.  When you get down to real world systems there are truly thousands (if not infinite) of variables to keep track of.  
     In medicine, not only what the person eats, how much they exercise, what kinds of exercises, bathroom habits, sleep patterns, stress levels, emotional stability, family history, genetics, home life, weather, air quality, levels of communication between the patient and the doctor, etc all effect the delicate balance of human life.  It is nearly impossible to always account for all these things when treating someone. 
     One of my favorite books is A Brave New World and this reminded me of that.  I have always found the idea of learning while sleeping fascinating.  I love learning and would love to do it around the clock.  However learning to sniff when I hear a specific noise isn't what I was going for.  That doesn't mean this isn't a cool study, it is very cool.  Of course I instantly thought of Pavlov's dog (Pavlovian conditioning) when I read this. 
      Side note: In A Brave New World they use hypnotic conditioning of children to teach their beliefs while the children are asleep.  That's why I thought of it.
     Chemical exposure during development can be very complicated.  When the embryo's cells are developing they are more reactive than an adult's cells.  In the early stages especially when the cell signaling is crucial.  From one cell we get millions that end up being sectioned off into to different organ types.  This means that from early signals the cells begin to organize and form the first tissues of the babies.  This is why chemical exposure can have such a dramatic effect, cells signal each other with chemicals.  The likely conclusion here is that the exposure to PFCs stimulates fat storing cell production.  Of course this is just my educated guess, I have not done any personal research into this.
So let me know if there are any questions/comments about 4.5 (Or any of them of course). I would love to clear anything up or start a discussion.

What's on tap for this month?  Well I plan on doing a Top ten list at the end of the month/beginning of October.  Since I have a few Astronomy programs scheduled I will be doing an Astronomy related post.  Also, I want to get some serious work done on a particle physics entry that I promised I would write.

Keep your questions coming.

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