June 21, 2013
NASA Programs In Peril – The Daily Orbit
Congress is tightening the purse strings on NASA
Instagram shouts “Action”!
Taking a look at that Big Brain of yours.
And we’re getting emotional on today’s Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
The funding horizon isn’t looking good for NASA. A new bill in the House of Representatives would cap spending at the US space agency. It would drop funding for the asteroid retrieval and relocation program and limit NASA’s spending to $16.87 billion over the next two years. It calls for changes in management structure and a spending cap for Commercial Crew activities, while increasing congressional oversight of the program. And the bill looks to steer focus back to lunar exploration and provide more money for robotic exploration of the solar system. Space exploration proponents say such cuts would axe the plan for a manned mission to Mars and that NASA is being asked to do too much with too little. Well, that’s when you have to creative NASA!
I’m sure NASA’s emotional brain activity was off the charts in hearing that news! Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have found a way to identify a person’s emotions based on brain activity. Often, studies that involve participants self-reporting emotions are hampered because, well, people aren’t always good at self-reporting. Using MRI scans, researchers found that emotion signatures aren’t limited to specific brain regions, such as the amygdala, but produce characteristic patterns throughout a number of brain regions. They also noted that happiness was the easiest emotion to identify and envy the most difficult. They plan to use their model on a number of emotion research projects. I suddenly feel emotional…Sorry.
And this next story makes me happy! Scientists have constructed the most detailed, ultra-high resolution 3-D reconstruction of a complete human brain ever that they are calling “Big Brain.” How cool! The image shows the very fine details of the human brain on the cellular level. But how they made it was really interesting—they took sections of a 65-year-old female brain, which was embedded in paraffin wax, to base their model on. It took 1,000 hours to collect the data. This new brain is part of the European Human Brain Project and is available publically to the broader scientific community to advance the field of neuroscience.
And researchers have found a link between gluten antibodies and autism. Testing blood samples of children with and without autism, they found increased antibodies to gluten proteins of wheat in children with autism. Results also showed the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms with the elevated antibodies, although they did not see a connection between elevated antibodies and celiac disease. Little is understood about the cause of autism—a neurodevelopmental disease that negatively affects communication and social interaction. Scientists say it’s common for children with autism to have gastrointestinal issues, and a gluten-free diet has proved helpful in some cases, although the actual effectiveness has not been proven in controlled studies. Researchers say that further research needs to be done to confirm the gluten-autism link.
Amateur photographers are now going to be amateur movie makers. Facebook has announced that they are bringing video to Instagram. It’s available right away on iOS and Android. Users will find a camera icon to switch over to video mode where you can take up to 15 seconds of video. You can record others or record yourself with the front-and-back facing cameras. And for filter junkies, and you know who you are, Instagram created 13 new filters just for video. But the coolest feature perhaps is its “Cinema” feature which stabilizes the video and acts and an automatic enhancer to fancy up your vids. Unlike Vine, it will of course work with Facebook and can be displayed on your feed. [ Making a video ] Here’s my “it’s the first day of summer” video!
Well that does it for the Daily Orbit! Do something to enjoy the first day of summer! I know I will!