September 5, 2013
LEGO Introduces Professor Bodin Female Scientist – The Daily Orbit
LEGO’s letting go of stereotypes.
Good hygiene may not make for good health.
Echoing in genetics.
And timing is everything on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
It’s not a man’s world anymore. More and more girls are putting on lab coats and channeling their inner scientist and one company is getting clued in. LEGO just released their first female scientist miniature figure in their Series 11—meet Professor C. Bodin. The Professor is breaking stereotypes of a male dominated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math world. Professor Bodin’s bio on the LEGO website starts out “I wonder what will happen if I put THIS together with THAT.” LEGO is known for inspiring children to choose STEM jobs. Way to go LEGO!
And can I get an echo. New research from Queen Mary University in London is looking at the genetic basis for echolocation, which has developed separately in a variety of animals including bats and dolphins. Researchers were specifically looking at echolocation evolution on the genetic level and, by comparing genomic sequences, they found similar genetic signatures in nearly 200 different genomic regions concentrated in several “hearing genes.” They had expected to find identical changes in a dozen or so genes in these totally unrelated animals, but were super excited to see nearly 200. Researchers say this is a great example of convergent evolution —the evolution of similar traits in drastically different types of creatures. Don’t you love when you get more than you expected?
Good hygiene should be a good thing right? Maybe not. A study published in the UK says that people living in wealthy, industrialized countries are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease due to—get this—cleanliness! Because residents of these nations are far less likely to come in contact with excessive bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms, they could have problems with the development of their immune system, which could lead to inflammation in the brain typically linked with Alzheimer’s. Known as the hygiene hypothesis, past research has already linked cleaner environments with a higher risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases. The researchers said that “exposure to microorganisms is critical for the regulation of the immune system.” I guess there is such a thing as being too clean!
Archaeologists have put a timeline on the origins of ancient Egypt. They’ve been digging back in time to understand when this great civilization first became a state ruled by a King. Thanks to radiocarbon dating of excavated hair, bones and plants, they say Egypt’s first ruler—King Aha—came into power around 3100BC. Well, that was an Aha moment. Dating showed that farmers began to settle and work the land around the Nile later than previously thought and that the gap between settlement and the first king was shorter as well. They were also able to date the reigns of the next seven kings and queens—whose names I will not attempt to pronounce.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, is ready for launch! This robotic mission will send an orbiter to the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere which is very different from our own…as in almost non-existent. Scientists call it an exosphere because it is so fantastically thin, and they believe these types of atmospheres may be very common in the universe. LADEE is also trying to help scientists solve the mystery of the lunar twilight rays—ooh la la their name alone has me intrigued. These are pales, luminous streamers seen by Apollo astronauts a few seconds before the lunar sunrise and sunset. Although common on Earth as sunlight penetrates the cloud and haze, the “airless moon” shouldn’t have these. Scientists hypothesize that dust is being lofted into the thin atmosphere, causing these rays, although they hope LADEE will help to confirm this. But the orbiter is on a timetable. A lunar eclipse to occur next April, which will be a beautiful sight for Earthlings but could be deadly to the solar powered orbiter. And another milestone for NASA—the orbiter is the first-ever planetary mission to launch from Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Way to represent VA!!!!
And that’s all for today’s Daily Orbit!