Elucidate

Blog just for my science interests, keeping my personal life outta this one. Nothing I post is my own unless otherwise stated.
Recent Tweets @

elvenwanderer06:

Let’s just talk about my reaction.  It’s the same yellow as my shirt.  I would never intentionally color-coordinate to my chemistry, nope. Then, it turned redorange.  Then as I filtered it off of a drying agent, it turned yellow, then orange again.

Gotta love things that have no expected chromophores in the reaction when they turn colors.

fuckyeahfluiddynamics:

A water droplet can rebound completely without spreading from a superhydrophobic surface. The photo above is a long exposure image showing the trajectory of such a droplet as it bounces. In the initial bounces, the droplet leaves the surface fully, following a parabolic path with each rebound. The droplet’s kinetic energy is sapped with each rebound by surface deformation and vibration, making each bounce smaller than the last. Viscosity damps the drop’s vibrations, and the droplet eventually comes to rest after twenty or so rebounds. (Image credit: D. Richard and D. Quere)

(via science-junkie)

spaceexp:

ISS Air Revittilisation System rack represents the state of the art in spacecraft oxygen recovery technology.

Credit: NASA

For NASA’s long-duration human spaceflight missions, travelers will need to recycle as much breathable oxygen in their spacecraft environments,…
humanoidhistory:

April 17, 1970 — The astronauts of Apollo 13 make it home, safe and sound.

humanoidhistory:

April 17, 1970 — The astronauts of Apollo 13 make it home, safe and sound.

(via astrodidact)

10knotes:

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Part 3

Featured on a 1000Notes.com blog

(via astrotastic)

neuromorphogenesis:

Fact or fiction? Common myths about autism explained

April is Autism Awareness Month. Is your knowledge of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) up-to-date?

Dr. Jeffrey Skowron, Regional Clinical Director for Autism Intervention Specialists in Worcester says there are many myths around autism, but they largely fall into two camps: treatment and causes.

Myth: Vaccines cause autism

This is one of the biggest myths about autism. This idea, based on research that has since been debunked and retracted by medical journals, took off after celebrity Jenny McCarthy claimed her son had autism because of vaccines.

“There’s no credible scientific evidence that autism is related to vaccines in any way,” said Dr. Skowron.

So why does the myth continue to have momentum? Dr. Skowron says that around the time parents start to see signs of autism in their children is around the time when they receive multiple vaccines.

“They will say that their child is having issues with certain aspects of their development, and they ask why is he or she acting this way. It’s just a coincidence that the two events—vaccinations and developing social skills—happen at this time. But frankly it’s hard for parents to diagnose social skills in a six-month-old because they really aren’t having social interactions yet.”

Myth: Autism is a disease

Autism is not a disease, it’s a collection of behaviors or symptoms, which makes it a syndrome.

“We aren’t sure of the underlying pathology or physical issues related to it. Although there is more evidence,” said Dr. Skowron. “There are several different presentations of the behavior we call autism. Most likely it’s a disorder of the brain.”

Because children display the signs of autism shortly after birth, researchers believe there’s a large genetic component which Dr. Skowron says the prevalence of autism with siblings and twins supports. There is a 90 percent likelihood that if one twin has autism, the other will too according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Between siblings, there is a five percent chance that they will both be diagnosed with autism.

Myth: More people have autism than ever

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. A decade ago, the rate was 1 in 150.

But while Dr. Skowron admits that it’s hard to say why those rates are higher, he says it’s not simply an increased prevalence of autism. “It’s a myth to say that more people have autism,” he said.

“It could be that we’re just finding it more often. Families are looking for the signs more, and they have better access to pediatricians, clinicians, and psychologists that are better able to diagnose them,” he said. “What you should really be saying is that more people are diagnosed with autism today than ever before.”

Myth: Treatments turn kids into robots

Some say that behavioral therapy, the recommended treatment for autism, is highly impersonal, which Dr. Skowron said “is simply not true.”

“People say it turns kids into robots,” said Dr. Skowron, who has been working in applied behavioral analysis for 20 years. “It seems very personal to me. Based on the needs of the kids you form a strong bond with the person. The families play a big role in the treatment, and they can have a great affect on the treatment of the child.”

Doctors typically prescribe antipsychotic medications to treat severe symptoms of autism, which can include anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“The best and most effective treatment for autism is applied behavior analysis,” said Dr. Skowron. “There is scientific evidence showing the effectiveness of treating autism this way. Any other methods just don’t have the same body of research toward them.”

Myth: There’s a cure for autism

There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, according to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, although there is research going toward this effort. While treatment can be very effective, the social deficits and symptoms are there throughout the person’s life.

“They can learn to compensate with in very effective ways to the point that other people might not even know,” said Dr. Skowron. “But whatever physical problems are in the brain of that person, those will remain throughout the person’s life. So people have to learn ways around that.”

Because of the varying degrees of autism, while some may require a supportive environment, people with autism can successfully live independently.

Myth: People with autism can’t love

Because those who are autistic can have an impaired ability to make friends or carry on a conversation, a common myth is that people with autism can’t love or show emotions such as empathy.

“They may have deficits in social interaction skills and in conveying those emotions to other people, but those emotions are there,” said Dr. Skowron. “There are some people that say if your child is diagnosed with autism, so they can never have a relationship—well that’s just not true. People with autism can have relationships, spouses, girlfriends, and boyfriends. There’s a variety and spectrum of abilities and deficits associated with autism, and people can display these to varying degrees.”

People with autism can go on to have jobs, relationships, and families with effective intervention therapies.

Myth: Foods can cause autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is largely a genetic disorder, and although researchers say environment does play a role in early development, there is not substantial medical evidence finding a relationship between autism and food. Despite this, some families try nutritional therapies like gluten-free diets to treat autism.

Children with autism who improve their behavior as a result of eliminating certain foods from their diets likely have a food allergy, said Dr. Skowron.

“For instance, if a child has a lactose allergy, then drinking milk will make them feel bad and it will probably interfere with their treatment or education, but it’s not because of the milk exacerbating the condition of autism, it’s because drinking the milk makes them feel bad because they’re allergic. Some parents think that a gluten-free diet helps their child with autism, and it may make the child feel better, but it’s not because the wheat or gluten causes autism, it’s because the child has a wheat allergy.”

Doctors recommend that any families following one of the controversial nutritional therapies should be sure to consult a nutritionist and closely follow the child’s nutritional status.

Get the facts:

“Things like treatment involving diet or avoiding vaccinations, avoiding certain foods, those just don’t have credible scientific evidence,” said Dr. Skowron. The true key to treating autism? He says start behavioral therapy intensively when the child is very young.

“If it’s started early, and we’re talking when they’re toddlers, we can see even in the most extreme cases there are huge differences by the time the child is a teenager depending on their function needs.”

To find resources for your family and friends, or to learn more about autism, find more information at:

The Autism Resource Center

Autism Speaks

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Mass ABA

Image1: A boy plays with seeds during therapy at the therapy and development center for autistic kids in the Asociacion Guatemalteca por el Autismo, or Guatemalan Association for Autism, building in Guatemala City March 13, 2014.The center is the only one in the country that specifically conducts programs for autistic children, according to the association.

Image2: Alexander Prentice, 5, of Burton, Mich., smiles as he searches for items at the bottom of a sand bin in the reinforcement room, which allows technicians to work with children on building on skill sets at Genesee Health System’s new Children’s Autism Center on Jan. 16, 2014 in Flint.

(via thescienceofreality)

neurosciencestuff:

(Image caption: During the learning processes, extensions grow on neurons. Synapses are located at the end of these extensions (left: as seen in nature; right: reconstruction). When the synapse growth is based on the correlated development of all synaptic components, it can remain stable for long periods of time. Credit: © MPI of Neurobiology/ Meyer)

Synapses – stability in transformation

Nothing lasts forever. This principle also applies to the proteins that make up the points of contact between our neurons. It is due to these proteins that the information arriving at a synapse can be transmitted and then received by the next neuron. When we learn something, new synapses are created or existing ones are strengthened. To enable us to retain long-term memories, synapses must remain stable for long periods of time, up to an entire lifetime. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried near Munich have found an explanation as to how a synapse achieves remaining stable for a long time despite the fact that its proteins must be renewed regularly.

Learning in the laboratory

“We were interested first of all in what happens to the different components of a synapse when it grows during a learning process,” explains study leader Volker Scheuss. An understanding of how the components grow could also provide information about the long-term stability of synapses. Hence, the researchers studied the growth of synapses in tissue culture dishes following exposure to a (learning) stimulus. To do this, they deliberately activated individual synapses using the neurotransmitter glutamate: scientists have long known that glutamate plays an important role in learning processes and stimulates the growth of synapses. Over the following hours, the researchers observed the stimulated synapses and control synapses under a 2-photon microscope. To confirm the observed effects, they then examined individual synapses with the help of an electron microscope. “When you consider that individual synapses are only around one thousandth of a millimetre in size, this was quite a Sisyphean task,” says Tobias Bonhoeffer, the Director of the department where the research was carried out.

Synaptic stability – a concerted effort

The scientists discovered that during synapse growth the different protein structures always grew coordinated with each other. If one structural component was enlarged alone, or in a way that was not correctly correlated with the other components, its structural change would collapse soon after. Synapses with such incomplete changes cannot store any long-term memories.

The study findings show that the order and interaction between synaptic components is finely tuned and correlated. “In a system of this kind, it should be entirely possible to replace individual proteins while the rest of the structure maintains its integrity,” says Scheuss. However, if an entire group of components breaks away, the synapse is destabilised. This is also an important process given that the brain could not function correctly without the capacity to forget things. Hence, the study’s results provide not only important insight into the functioning and structure of synapses, they also establish a basis for a better understanding of memory loss, for example in the case of degenerative brain diseases.

neuromorphogenesis:

How memories stick together

Scientists at the Salk Institute have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event.

This new framework provides a more complete picture of how memory works, which can inform research into disorders liked Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress and learning disabilities.

"Previous models of memory were based on fast activity patterns," says Terrence Sejnowski, holder of Salk’s Francis Crick Chair and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “Our new model of memory makes it possible to integrate experiences over hours rather than moments.”

Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have revealed much about how long-term memories are stored. For significant events—for example, being bit by a dog—a number of proteins are quickly made in activated brain cells to create the new memories. Some of these proteins linger for a few hours at specific places on specific neurons before breaking down.

This series of biochemical events allow us to remember important details about that event—such as, in the case of the dog bite, which dog, where it was located and so on.

One problem scientists have had with modeling memory storage is explaining why only selective details and not everything in that 1-2 hour window is strongly remembered. By incorporating data from previous literature, Sejnowski and first author Cian O’Donnell, a Salk postdoctoral researcher, developed a model that bridges findings from both molecular and systems observations of memory to explain how this 1-2 hour memory window works. The work is detailed in the latest issue of Neuron.

Using computational modeling, O’Donnell and Sejnowski show that, despite the proteins being available to a number of neurons in a given circuit, memories are retained when subsequent events activate the same neurons as the original event. The scientists found that the spatial positioning of proteins at both specific neurons and at specific areas around these neurons predicts which memories are recorded. This spatial patterning framework successfully predicts memory retention as a mathematical function of time and location overlap.

"One thing this study does is link what’s happing in memory formation at the cellular level to the systems level," says O’Donnell. "That the time window is important was already established; we worked out how the content could also determine whether memories were remembered or not. We prove that a set of ideas are consistent and sufficient to explain something in the real world."

The new model also provides a potential framework for understanding how generalizations from memories are processed during dreams.

While much is still unknown about sleep, research suggests that important memories from the day are often cycled through the brain, shuttled from temporary storage in the hippocampus to more long-term storage in the cortex. Researchers observed most of this memory formation in non-dreaming sleep. Little is known about if and how memory packaging or consolidation is done during dreams. However, O’Donnell and Sejnowski’s model suggests that some memory retention does happen during dreams.

"During sleep there’s a reorganizing of memory—you strengthen some memories and lose ones you don’t need anymore," says O’Donnell. "In addition, people learn abstractions as they sleep, but there was no idea how generalization processes happen at a neural level."

By applying their theoretical findings on overlap activity within the 1-2 hour window, they came up with a theoretical model for how the memory abstraction process might work during sleep.

Image: The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.