January 18, 2013

Mona Lisa’s Famous Smile Beamed From The Moon To NASA – The Daily Orbit

What do Mona Lisa and the Moon have in common? Hint…it’s not a Nat King Cole song.

Why do I feel bad for Mr. Crab?

And greenhouse gasses bring February flowers!

All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!

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

“Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa men have named you…” And now you’re on the moon! Well sort of. Using lasers usually employed for tracking the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, NASA beamed the famous smile to the LRO which then shot it back to scientists waiting at the Goddard Space Flight Center. To receive the signal, the LRO uses an instrument called the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA. “Whatever LOLA wants, LOLA gets…” from NASA.

Ok now I feel really bad about this next finding. Have you ever just taken a crab and thrown in the pot of boiling water? Yeah, me too. But I thought they didn’t feel pain. Well, new research puts a squeal in that theory. The study sought to distinguish between pain and a reflex phenomenon known as nociception – a reflex response that provides immediate protection but no awareness or changes in long-term behavior. Researchers individually put 90 crabs into a tank with 2 dark shelters. After the crab chose its shelter, some were exposed to an electric shock. After a little downtime, the crabs were reintroduced to the tank with most going back to that same shocking shelter as before. But upon entering the tank a 3rd time they had “painfully” learned their lesson and chose alternative shelter leading researchers to believe they do feel pain. They say these findings could lead to more humane treatment of crustaceans in the seafood industry. I am so sorry Mr. Crab but you taste so good!

Don’t you just love when the birds begin to chirp and flowers start to blossom? It’s just so lovely. But spring is springing into action much earlier than usual and scientists say that’s not lovely at all. Record high temperatures in the U.S. in 2010 and 2012 resulted in the earliest spring flowering season in over 160 years. Using phenological records of Henry David Thoreau in 1852 and Aldo Leopold in 1935, scientists determined plants are blooming an average of 3 to 6 weeks early – a good indication of the ecological changes caused by global warming. Just a 1.8 F rise in temperature means up to 4.1 days earlier flowering for a plant. And the pattern holds true from Massachusetts to Wisconsin. Researchers say this trend “speaks to a larger phenomenon taking place in the Eastern United States.” Well, looking at it positively I’m excited for spring flowers earlier! No? Okay…you’re right.

And this is kinda scary. New “vulnerability research” at MIT has found that private genetic data is just a few clicks away. Researchers were able to uncover the identities of almost 50 people who donated DNA to genetic research studies armed with nothing but a laptop and an internet connection. The Y chromosomes that are passed from the father identify surnames. Then researchers narrowed results by age and state information providing full identities. Scarily, they can also identify relatives of the donors. So, say your 3rd cousin Jimmy John donated DNA, you could be found by his DNA. The fear is that if software were developed to make this identification easier, employers or insurance companies could identify which individuals have a genetic disease. Going forward, researchers say they want to make sure that people who participate in these studies are fully aware of the risks to their privacy.

Ooohhhhmmm…oh excuse me, I was just meditating. A new study says that “mindfulness” meditation techniques can provide relief for sufferers of chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel, or asthma. Researchers compared the results of a “mindfulness” health regimen and one without the “mindfulness” element. A “mindfulness” routine involves a focus on breathing, bodily sensations, and mental content while seated, walking or performing yoga. After an 8 week program, results showed that a mindfulness program more effectively treated inflammation conditions than one lacking “mindfulness.” Researchers say it’s not a cure-all but could be a good technique for those who do not respond to the medications or need a low-cost alternative.

Well, that does it for the Daily Orbit. See ya next week.

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