Science Sunday 05-27-17

Juno Polar View

NASA has just released images from Juno, its current Jupiter mission, as it passed from pole to pole over the gas giant.  The above image, which looks like a spectacular modern art painting, is a view of Jupiter’s south pole, from a distance of 7800 mi.

Business Insider has put together a wonderful montage of these images as the spacecraft passes between Jupiter’s north and south poles.

If you would prefer to fly along with Juno on this latest “perijove” pass by the planet, here is a video released by NASA in the last few days:


Sayonara Blue Whale

With Donald “Nutjob” Trump about to pull the plug on US participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord because Macron didn’t shake his hand first, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about the Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to exist on the Earth.

As much as 100 feet in length, the Blue Whale can weigh up to 200 US tons, and exclusively consumes roughly 4 million krill per day.  A krill is a crustacean, a shrimp-like creature.

Not so long ago, the estimated worldwide population of Blue Whales was 300,000.  Today the estimated population is only about 9,000 of these magnificent creatures.

BBC News recently reported that scientists now think they know how it is the Blue Whales got to be so big.  One reason given was climate change occurring some 30 million years ago, when the northern hemisphere was largely covered in ice.  The krill congregated near coastal runoffs, and the whales had to travel large distances to find the krill.  When they did, it was advantageous to them to eat as many krill as possible in one feeding.

The above go-pro video, while long, is terribly moving, as Louie Psihoyos (of the Oceanic Preservation Society) and crew “race extinction” to get close up underwater video of the Blue Whale, while it is still with us.  The video includes exquisite cameos of Hans Hass and Jane Goodall.


Cannabidiol, Epilepsy Cure?

Orrin Devinsky of New York University’s Langone Medical Center has just published a landmark study on the effects of the marijuana derivative cannabidiol on seizure frequency for children suffering from Dravet’s syndrome, a particularly virulent and deadly form of epilepsy.  Seizure frequency was reduced by a stunning 39% for children taking cannabidiol.

In Devinsky’s words:

“Cannabidiol should not be viewed as a panacea for epilepsy, but for patients with especially severe forms who have not responded to numerous medications, these results provide hope that we may soon have another treatment option,” says lead investigator Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. “We still need more research, but this new trial provides more evidence than we have ever had of cannabidiol’s effectiveness as a medication for treatment-resistant epilepsy.”

I have been following the saga of the seemingly endless medical benefits of taking cannabidiol for some time.  While cannabidiol (which is a marijuana derivative with no psychoactive effect on humans) can be purchased in all 50 states by mail order as a food supplement, the FDA has cracked down on any cannabidiol purveyor making any medical claims regarding the compound.

With this study, there is some concern that the FDA will license cannabidiol to be used exclusively as a drug for Dravet’s syndrome, making it impossible for regular folks to buy it as a food supplement.


Chelyabinsk, a Close Call

NOVA had a wonderful program on this last week about the meteor that struck Chelyabinsk, Siberia, in 2013.

The meteor, estimated to have a mass of between 7,000 and 10,000 tons, was said to have the destructive impact of 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

Although the meteor, travelling at 30 km/sec, broke up in Earth’s atmosphere, it caused extensive damage to Chelyabinsk, a city of over a million people, sending over 1,000 people to the hospital, and breaking windows in roughly 300 buildings.

You can click on the picture above to access the whole show for free. To see a montage of videos from Chelyabinsk residents, click here.


Think You’re Smart?

A quasi-amusing synopsis of “signs” you are a genius, courtesy of Mind Warehouse.

Author: Bob Mahoney

Physics teacher

One thought on “Science Sunday 05-27-17”

  1. Orrin Devinsky, Daniel Friedman, and Siddhartha Nadkarni are all currently under criminal investigation by the Insurance Commissioner of NY for fraud. The investigation was referred after being reviewed by two investigators in the Attorney General’s Office.

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