November 19, 2012

To The Moon! The Water Rush Is On! – The Daily Orbit

There’s a new lunar competition

Could cloning be the answer for several endangered species?

Are you a night owl or an early riser?  Why scientists say it’s beyond your control!

All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!

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

I’m headin’ to the moon…gonna find me some water and make me a killin’. The prospect of finding water on the moon has several companies scrambling.  Several probes have already found evidence of frozen water but scientists are not sure if is all in the form of ice, or something more powdery like snow.  Nicknamed the “water rush,” companies are hoping to develop technologies NASA may need to harvest space resources in the future.   Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology is one company leading the way in the challenge but several other competitors have sprung up.  One physicist said “this is like the gold rush that led to the settlement of California….this is the water rush.”  Yee-haw.

Wanna make your kids smarter…throw them in the water!  Okay, not necessarily just throw them, but new research does show that kids who learn to swim at an early age are smarter and reach developmental milestones faster than the average child.  Researchers say that children who participated in swimming programs during their formative years scored significantly ”better” in visual-motor skills tasks like drawing and performed better on mathematical tasks.   So I guess that means swimming lessons for little Sally Ann this summer.

The animals may have been saved on the ark back in the day two by two, but science has its own way of saving species in danger.  Experts at the Brasilia Zoo in Brazil are hoping to clone several species of wild animals that are currently under threat.  They have selected 8 animals as potential cloning candidates, including the jaguar and the bison.  However, cloning does not solve one problem that pervades endangered species—the need for genetic diversity for survival.  The effort also has its critics who say that instead of trying to clone animals, more should be done to conserve habitats.  Remember when we cloned me? Hey there is only one…

And here’s a species that the experts at Brasilia Zoo might want to consider.  Once thought extinct, new DNA evidence suggests the giant tortoise species Chelonoidis abingdoni might live on after all.   Discovered on the Galapagos Islands, the massive reptiles were last seen in 1906 and considered extinct until the 1972 discovery of Lonesome George, the then 60 year old tortoise living on Pinta Island.  Lonesome George died this past June, but researchers from Yale University took DNA samples from 1600 giant tortoises, and discovered 17 hybrids that were ancestors of Lonesome George. Researchers plan to collect the tortoises and begin a captive breeding program, eventually reintroducing them to their native home. Then no other Lonesome George tortoise will have to be lonesome again.

So do you stay up all night or are you early to bed, early to rise?  I’m the latter.  Scientists have identified a common gene variant that not only determines whether or not a person is an early riser or a night owl, but could also indicate what time of day an individual is likely to die.  This variant relates to a person’s circadian clock which determines the certain times of day a person is most alert, when blood pressure is highest, and the heart is most efficient.  The researchers say the circadian clock can also influence “the timing of acute events like stroke and heart attack.”  They say this finding could help with scheduling shift work, planning medical treatments, and monitoring the conditions of vulnerable patients.  Does it explain why I woke up this morning at 3:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep?

Well that’s all for the Daily Orbit today….. oh look my clone is back…once you have ‘em I guess you can’t get rid of ‘em.  (shrug)

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