February 27, 2013
Celebrate Polar Bear Day And Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – The Daily Orbit
Giving a big hooray for Polar Bears today!
Does sleep keep your genes crankin?
What’s shuttin’ down the satellites?
And a little baby talk…on today’s Daily Orbit
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Yay today is International Polar Bear Day!!! The adorable icons of the Arctic are in trouble due to global warming and Polar Bear International is asking you to help celebrate by reducing your carbon footprint today. They issued the Thermostat Challenge asking you to adjust your thermostats up or down a couple of degrees. Turning your thermostat up 2 degrees in the summer and down 2 in winter can reduce your carbon footprint by about 2,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Polar Bear Day kicks off a new initiative called Save Our Sea Ice, or SOS, that continues all year and focuses on the urgent challenges polar bears are currently facing in the Arctic. Polar bears are only found in five nations – the US, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway – with three of those nations listing them endangered. In honor of the day, Sea World and the St. Petersburg Zoo gave presents to their polar bears. What kinda gift do you get a polar bear?
And the polar bear knows a little something about this next story. Yep, we’re talking about the Ice Age and it’s not the animated movie with those cute little critters. Researcher Dr. John Stewart believes that our ancestors had a great ability to adapt to different locales and climes, which had a direct effect on our evolution. When a major climate change would occur, our ancestors would migrate from the harsh conditions to seek what is known as refugium. And the genetic mutations that would occur during these periods of separation were passed down through the survivors’ genes. So I guess the point is – be good at seeking refugium if a major climate catastrophe occurs. Or know Bruce Willis.
Wanna keep your genes kickin’ it? Catch your zzzz’s. A new study shows that sleep-deprivation leads to a dramatic drop in gene activity. Ouch. Tests showed that those who slept for 8.5 hours a night had over 1800 genes whose activity rose and fell over a 24-hour cycle. In the sleep-deprived, nearly 400 of these genes stopped working completely. Researchers said they don’t know if the damaging gene effects are long-term or short-term but “if we can’t actually replenish and replace new cells, then that’s going to lead to degenerative diseases.” That’s a wakeup call for me. I’ve GOT to get more sleep.
Ba-by? How many syllables is that? Well, even preemies can tell a difference in syllables according to new research, suggesting that the human brain is capable of discerning between different spoken sounds earlier than previously thought. Researchers looked at prematurely born babies using a powerful, but rest assured, “non-invasive,” scanner to analyze the infants while playing voice recordings. Responses were seen not only in the right frontal region of the brain-the first to form- but syllabic changes also sparked a response in the left hemisphere which suggests a sophisticated degree of organization in the linguistic regions of the brain. So a baby processes language similar to how the adult brain processes the same information. Huh! Who would have thought we were so smart even as babies!
And scientists are getting a little smarter at identifying what takes satellites out in space. Sure, sometimes objects like the meteoroid that hit Russia last week or space junk takes out a satellite in orbit. But what happens when there’s no evidence of a major impact – like back in 1993 when ESA lost its multi-million dollar Olympus communication satellite? One scientist says the answer is space dust. Turns out, these tiny particles travel through space so fast that they turn into a quasi-neutral gas of ions and electrons known as plasma. This plasma can potentially create a radio signal called an electromagnetic pulse that can damage and completely shut down the satellites they hit. Scientists say since satellites transmit radio waves, they can also receive them, and potentially be shut down by them.
Well that’s all for today’s Daily Orbit. Watch out for that plasma!