Category Archives: Science

Colliding Over The Hadron Decision

Hmmm, let’s see, some dudes in Hawaii are apparently VERY pessimistic. I mean really, just one little poofy black hole. What’s the worst that could happen? (But they are strangely optimistic when it comes to the justice system; I mean, really, Hawaii has international super powers?)

But, I on the other hand, tend to take a brighter view of the world. Apparently, I am not alone: When charged particles of more than 5 TeV pass through a bubble chamber, they leave a trail of candy.

Oh, XKCD, what would we do without you to put the world of science in perspective?

Explorer beat Sputnik?

A model of Explorer 1, held by JPL

It’s the fiftieth anniversary, give or take, of Sputnik and Explorer I. While the Russians might have beaten the U.S. into space, the U.S. apparently came in first place for science. Or at least according to this op-ed from the L.A. Times:

Fifty years ago tomorrow, the United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit. Its success may seem to be a footnote in space history, a second-place finish to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. After all, wasn’t it Sputnik, launched four months earlier, that represented the real scientific breakthrough and sent Americans cowering in fear at the shiny Russian ball orbiting overhead?

Not exactly. Sputnik, a “hey look at me” feat of engineering, did not throw the nation’s scientists into a panic or prompt a mad scramble to match the Soviet demonstration of power. Instead, President Eisenhower, while prodding his team for results, kept an established national space program focused on the deliberate pursuit of scientific progress, and as a result, it was the runner-up that scored a more important breakthrough for pure research.

Conceived by James Van Allen of the University of Iowa and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Explorer 1 carried with it instruments to detect radiation in near space and to send data back to Earth. This mission was an extension of a vast global project — called the International Geophysical Year — that involved thousands of scientists and technicians from almost every country.

Sputnik merely orbited Earth; Explorer made the first physical discovery in space, identifying the regions of high and low radioactivity now known as the Van Allen belts. These radioactive realms offered clues for understanding atmospheric phenomena such as the aurora borealis and the way radio waves behave over long distances. The belts also suggested that space might contain unusual and unimagined hazards.

Most interesting is the point made at the end of the article about how the U.S. space program is accomplishing more for science by supporting projects such as Hubble and leaving the peopled-mission fun to the private sector.

Study: Alzheimer’s symptoms reversed within minutes

This is great news: a recent study showed a remarkable improvement in Alzheimer’s patients given a drug designed to treat immune-related disorders. In one case, the patient’s symptoms were reversed quickly:

The new study documents a dramatic and unprecedented therapeutic effect in an Alzheimer’s patient: improvement within minutes following delivery of perispinal etanercept, which is etanercept given by injection in the spine.

“It is unprecedented that we can see cognitive and behavioral improvement in a patient with established dementia within minutes of therapeutic intervention,” said Griffin [the author of commentary on the study]. “It is imperative that the medical and scientific communities immediately undertake to further investigate and characterize the physiologic mechanisms involved.”

Fighting Alzheimer’s has been pretty-near-hopeless before now, so this is fantastic news. It would be great to see Alzheimer’s turned into just another treatable issue.