July 26, 2013

Astronomers Find Most Centaurs Are Comets – The Daily Orbit

What is a centaur really?

Who or what is to blame for those sleepless nights?

Being a tall woman ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

And changing color on today’s Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

There’s a group of mysterious rocks orbiting between Jupiter and Neptune that scientists have dubbed “Centaurs,” and up until now they weren’t totally sure what they were looking at. They’ve been debating between comets or asteroids, hence the name “centaur” for the mythological creature with a torso of a man and legs of a horse. But new observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, reveal most centaurs are comets. WISE allowed comets to look at the reflection of the objects’ to determine the color. Most were blue-gray and dark—telltale signs of a comet. The fact that they’re comets just makes them even more mystical, don’t you think?

And you can also look to the sky to find the cause for your insomnia. Researchers say that your sleepless nights may have a celestial culprit. New research found that humans respond to geophysical rhythms of the moon, driven by a circalunar clock—even if you don’t see the moon or know what phase it’s in. The study found 30% lower deep sleep brain activity in sleepers during a full moon and a diminished level of melatonin—the hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles. And this is interesting, they said this circalunar rhythm could be a relic from a past in which the moon could have synchronized behaviors for reproduction and other purposes. I’ve always said the full moon makes me restless—but restless in a good way.

And this next story makes me a little restless considering I’m almost 5’10.” Researchers say taller, postmenopausal women are at a greater risk of developing many types of cancer—from cancers of the breast and colon to myeloma and melanoma. Scientists say the association with height is greater even than the cancer-body mass association. They said since cancer is a disease of growth it makes sense that other growth factors that influence height may influence the cancer risk. For every 3.94” increase in height, there was a 13% increase in the risk of developing cancer. Guess it’s not so great to be a tall, beautiful supermodel after all.

And here’s another disturbing story. Which would you rather have: berries or bugs? So some of you may have said bugs, but I’m pretty sure most everyone chose berries. Well when it comes to Dannon yogurt you don’t have a choice. The company uses carmine, or cochineal extract, to give Boysenberry, Cherry, Raspberry and Strawberry yogurts their red or pink color. And that’s literally not kosher. It makes the yogurt unacceptable for vegetarians and Kosher Jews. A watchdog group is using an online petition at takepart.com to urge the company to start using real berries instead of bugs, even though the FDA has approved carmine as an additive. But the company is not alone. Last year, Starbucks got heat for its use of cochineal extract in some of its strawberry drinks, but the company quickly switched to a plant-based coloring additive. Oh Jamie Lee Curtis I trusted you!

And these creatures changing color is totally Kosher. How do squids’ and octopuses’ do their cool color-changing thing? New research says first you have to understand a little about color. Color in living organisms is formed in two ways: by pigmentation or anatomical structure—where light interacts with nanostructures in the organism to reflect certain wavelengths. In squids and octopuses, they are able to use a complex process to essentially dehydrate and rehydrate their cells, so they shrink and swell—which changes cell thickness and spacing. This is turn affects the wavelength of light that is reflected. These organisms can change color over the entire visible spectrum so they can blend into their environment and hide from predators. Complicated I know, but hey, changing colors isn’t easy!

And that’s all for the Daily Orbit! Have a great weekend!

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