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More Younger People In The UK Are Watching Planet Earth II Than The X Factor

Plants and Animals

More Younger People In The UK Are Watching Planet Earth II Than The X Factor

Posted By liveworld

When choosing between the epic dash for survival by a plucky baby iguana and the caterwauling of amateurs in an overhyped contest, younger people are turning to the former. Recent figures have found that people aged 16 to 34 prefer to watch the epic BBC nature documentary Planet Earth II over rival channel ITV’s X Factor.

This fact is making the illustrious David Attenborough immeasurably happy. “I’m told that we are attracting a larger than normal number of younger viewers,” the legendary naturalist and narrator of the latest offering from the BBC’s Natural History Unit wrote in the Radio Times. “Apparently the music of Hans Zimmer in particular is striking a chord. That pleases me enormously.”

The incredible series, which has captured everything from the funky dancing of bears as they scratch an itch to the golden mole’s snuffling through the sand in the hunt for termites, has taken years of painstaking work to complete. Released 10 years after the original series, which was in itself a groundbreaking piece of film, Planet Earth II has continued to raise the bar of nature documentary making.

But it’s not only the music that is pleasing to the younger audience, it is also the astonishing technology that has enabled filmmakers to capture intimate snapshots of the lives of animals. “Of course, the incredible popularity of the series is the result of other factors as well,” says Attenborough. “The proximity to the animals brought about by the latest technology gives us a new and engrossing perspective on the struggles many of them endure to survive.”

Capturing the awe of a younger audience is something that Attenborough sees as a triumph. After spending over 60 years documenting the natural world, he is acutely aware of the intense struggle for survival our planet is currently going through and that its future rests firmly in the hands of the next generation.

“It is our environmental legacy that the younger generation of today will inherit; we need them to become the environmental champions of the future,” writes Attenborough. “And that’s why television of this type is so important. It isn’t just delivering animals into our homes but transporting us into theirs. It’s enabled us to see just how full of wonder those habitats are and underlines why we must protect them.”

“Their survival is our survival.”

Planet Earth II is broadcast on BBC1 in the UK every Sunday at 8pm. It will start in the United States on January 28, 2017, on BBC America.

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Ivanka Trump Wants To Say Something About Climate Change But No One Knows What

Environment

Ivanka Trump Wants To Say Something About Climate Change But No One Knows What

Posted By liveworld

Ivanka Trump is reportedly gearing up to make climate change mitigation one of her signature issues, according to Politico. No, this isn’t a joke, and yes, her father is the man who repeatedly referred to climate change as a hoax or a myth.

Donald Trump is set to roll back decades’ worth of climate change research, environmental protection, and natural disaster prevention, all because he’s such a fervent fan of coal and short-term profits. He has surrounded himself with climate change deniers, and he has very little understanding of renewable energy. He recently said he finds wind “very deceiving”.

Ivanka, though, is clearly different. She is said to be “in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue.” It’s not entirely clear, though, what her thoughts on climate change actually are. So in this respect, she could “speak out” against scientists or for them. We’ve no idea.

Having no clue what a member of the Trump clan thinks is part and parcel of their whole shtick. The President-elect himself has changed position on almost everything, from whether he wants to lock up Hillary Clinton, repeal Obamacare, or, remarkably, on whether climate change is caused by humans.

Ivanka is clearly following in her highly fugacious father’s footsteps. Unlike Donald, however, Ivanka seems to have never tweeted about climate change.

If she were to come out in favor of acknowledging that humans are causing climate change, then this would of course be deeply ironic, similar to how Melania Trump spoke out against cyber-bullying while being married to Donald Trump.

As you can probably tell, we’re skeptical. Maybe, though, Ivanka will agree that humanity is really messing up the climate and that it needs to stop. Maybe she will convince her dad to not leave the Paris agreement. Maybe she can convince Donald Trump that the world really is worth saving after all.

Perhaps this will all turn out to be like the Return of the Jedi, and she’ll turn to the Light Side and defeat her father, the Dark Lord of the Sith, in a battle as the emperor Steve Bannon looks on and cackles. Fingers crossed.

Either way, Ivanka is becoming an increasingly significant contributor to the pandemonium of pathos that we know of as 2016.

Spending most of the election cycle fairly incognito, an unexpectedly rigorous interview in Cosmopolitan brought her into the spotlight after she failed to defend her father’s deplorable viewpoints and stormed out. Nowadays, she’s attempting to play as prominent a role in her dad’s new empire as possible by sitting in on meetings with heads of state while sneakily promoting her jewelry range.

[H/T: Politico]

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NASA Says Russian Spacecraft Explosion Will Not Affect Space Station Operations

Space

NASA Says Russian Spacecraft Explosion Will Not Affect Space Station Operations

Posted By liveworld

Yesterday, we learned that a Russian Progress cargo spacecraft intended for the International Space Station (ISS) likely exploded on its way to orbit, and was lost.

Fortunately, NASA has said this will not impact operations on the ISS, so the astronauts won’t be going hungry any time soon. The station has plenty of stocks in reserve, and another upcoming mission will ensure it has all the essential supplies it needs.

“The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station,” NASA said in a statement. “The next mission scheduled to deliver cargo to the station is an H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday, December 9.”

Everything seemed to be going fine for the Progress 65 spacecraft after launching yesterday at 9.51am EST (2.51pm GMT). But about six minutes later, there appears to have been a problem during the third stage separation. The vehicle subsequently exploded, with reports saying debris may have fallen over Tuva in Russia.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, later confirmed the spacecraft had been lost.

This is the second Progress spacecraft to have been lost in the last couple of years, with a number of successful launches on either side of these two failures. Although there’s no massive cause for concern at the moment, it’s slightly worrisome that the vehicle has failed twice recently.

And it perhaps puts greater focus on a number of other vehicles that are in operation, or soon to be, that will help keep the station resupplied through its lifetime – until as late as 2028.

At the moment, the aforementioned HTV vehicle is in operation, while SpaceX will also soon return to launching its Dragon capsule. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus vehicle also takes supplies to the station, and in a few years, we can expect to see a new mini space plane called Dream Chaser, built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, also join the fleet.

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NASA Photographs Massive Crack In Antarctica Ice Shelf

Space

NASA Photographs Massive Crack In Antarctica Ice Shelf

Posted By liveworld

More bad news from Antarctica as NASA scientists have photographed an enormous rift within the Larsen C ice shelf. The crack is about 113 kilometers (70 miles) long, more than 90 meters (300 feet) across, and 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) deep.

The rift is similar to a previous one that appeared on Larsen B, which caused the ice shelf to separate and disintegrate in 2002. Prior to that event, Larsen B had remained unchanged for almost 12,000 years.

Ice shelves are the floating parts of glaciers in Antartica. They are not merely extensions into the ocean, but act as a crucial support for the polar ice cap. Most of the ice in Antarctica is not on water but on land, and without ice shelves, the continental ice will accelerate into the ocean and melt.   

The fracture was photographed on November 10 as part of Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of Antarctic ice. The survey has been tracking the change in the South Pole due to the devastating effects of global warming.

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Amateur Bodybuilder Treated After Injecting Himself With Coconut Oil

Health and Medicine

Amateur Bodybuilder Treated After Injecting Himself With Coconut Oil

Posted By liveworld

Doctors are warning about the practice among bodybuilders in the UK of injecting substances such as coconut oil to enhance their muscle shape. The extent of the practice is only coming to light due to the case of a young man being admitted to hospital with loss of function in his right arm, but medics are warning this is potentially only the “tip of the iceberg.”

“Alarmingly, this practice used for the short-term enhancement of muscular appearance seems to come at a significant cost,” write the authors of the case study published in BMJ Case Reports. “There is a risk of long-term muscle fibrosis, deformity and irreversible loss of function.”

The practice has been brought to light due to an occasion where a 25-year-old amateur bodybuilder was treated for pain and loss of function in his right arm. He told doctors he’d taken up body building four years earlier, but that he’d had trouble moving his arm for a few months. An ultrasound of the arm revealed that not only had he ruptured his triceps, but that there numerous cysts inside his arm muscle.

Despite being reluctant to talk at the start, the man eventually revealed that he had been injecting his arm with coconut oil to improve the aesthetics and contouring of his muscles. While the self-administering of steroids is a well-known practice, the extent of using other compounds, such as walnut oil, sesame oil, and paraffin, is less well established and not really recognized among medical practitioners. People are turning to them as cheap and easy to get hold of alternatives to anabolic steroids.

The doctors think that it is unlikely that the rupturing of the tendon that connects the triceps to the bone near the elbow – an injury that is rare in younger people – was related to the coconut oil, and is more probably linked to the fact that he was also taking steroids at the same time. But the cysts forming in the muscles were almost certainly the result of injecting the coconut oil into them. It also turned out that the patient was taking non-prescribed insulin and vitamin B12 injections.

“The long-term impact of this practice on the musculature itself, as well as potential adverse effects compromising health and sporting ability, lack thorough description,” the authors continue. “We need to be aware of these cases to enable correct clinical diagnoses and also to recognize other self-abusive and potentially life-threatening practices which may be seen in conjunction.”

Not only is there the threat of developing cysts, but the experts also warn of causing potential blood clots if the injections hit a blood vessel. Needless to say, the doctors recommend against such practices in all situations.

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What’s The Chance Of Life On Pluto?

Space

What’s The Chance Of Life On Pluto?

Posted By liveworld

When it comes to life outside Earth, all eyes are on Mars and Europa, but new organisms may be lurking even at the edge of the Solar System.

Analysis so far seems to indicate a liquid ocean beneath the frigid surface of Pluto, which could mean life exists there, although not as we know it. Professor William McKinnon from Washington University in St. Louis is the co-author of two of four new Pluto studies published this week in Nature. He argues that in the dwarf planet’s viscous ocean, there might be microorganisms.

“What I think is down there in the ocean is rather noxious, very cold, salty and very ammonia-rich – almost a syrup,” Mckinnon said in a statement. “In fact, New Horizons has detected ammonia as a compound on Pluto’s big moon, Charon, and on one of Pluto’s small moons. So it’s almost certainly inside Pluto.”

In previous studies, he showed that nitrogen ice on the surface of the dwarf planet experienced constant forces that change the region known as Sputnik Planitia, the famous heart of Pluto. According to McKinnon’s latest paper, based on the orientation and gravity of Pluto, the ocean is 950 kilometers (600 miles) across and 80 kilometers (50 miles) thick.

The ocean was formed via an ancient impact that provided a space for the ocean to fill. However, the ocean would have quickly frozen if it was made of ice, so a different composition is required.

“All of these ideas about an ocean inside Pluto are credible, but they are inferences, not direct detections,” McKinnon added. “If we want to confirm that such an ocean exists, we will need gravity measurements or subsurface radar sounding, all of which could be accomplished by a future orbiter mission to Pluto. It’s up to the next generation to pick up where New Horizons left off!”

Given the dramatic differences between Earth and Pluto, the little critters that might inhabit the ocean are likely not what you would expect.

“Life can tolerate a lot of stuff:  It can tolerate a lot of salt, extreme cold, extreme heat, etc. But I don’t think it can tolerate the amount of ammonia Pluto needs to prevent its ocean from freezing – ammonia is a superb antifreeze,” he continued.

“It’s no place for germs, much less fish or squid, or any life as we know it. But as with the methane seas on Titan – Saturn’s main moon – it raises the question of whether some truly novel life forms could exist in these exotic, cold liquids.”

There are many icy bodies at the edge of the Solar System, and if oceans can survive on Pluto, there might be many more interesting geologies left for us to discover.

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Future Of Groundbreaking Mission To Deflect An Asteroid Uncertain

Space

Future Of Groundbreaking Mission To Deflect An Asteroid Uncertain

Posted By liveworld

There are fears that a flagship mission to investigate how to deflect asteroids, in the event we may one day have to do so to save our planet, will never see the light of day.

The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) was to be part of a groundbreaking joint initiative between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. But today, ESA announced AIM was effectively dead in its current form, although it may live on in another capacity.

The decision to curtail the mission was announced at ESA’s Ministerial Council, where ministers from various ESA member states met to discuss funding for various missions.

Prior to this meeting, all the focus was on the ExoMars rover. This was the second part of the broader ExoMars mission, planned to launch in 2020 and arrive in 2021. The first part arrived earlier this year, which consists of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander.

The failure of the latter, though, had led some to question whether the rover would receive funding, as it would be using similar technology to attempt to land on the surface. That does not seem to have been an issue.

But what has arisen, somewhat unexpectedly, is the cutting back of the AIM mission in its current form. Although details aren’t completely clear at the moment, it seems ESA did not give AIM the funding it needed to continue as requested, although it may still proceed in one form or another.

AIM would have been part of the broader Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA). The proposal was for AIM to launch in October 2020, and enter orbit around an asteroid called Didymos. Then, in October 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft would have slammed into the asteroid, and AIM would have studied the resultant change in trajectory.

The change was expected to be tiny, but enough to be noticeable. And, aside from the scientific usefulness of such a mission, it was thought that this would have served as a good test for the future, if we ever needed to deflect an asteroid that was on a collision course with Earth.

“It’s a sad day for planetary defense,” Grigorij Richters, co-founder of the Asteroid Day movement, which seeks to educate people of the dangers asteroids pose to our planet, told IFLScience. “Missions like AIM are critical. We need to test technologies to deflect potentially hazardous asteroids.”

What will happen to the broader AIDA mission is unclear. At the time of writing, NASA had yet to respond to a request to comment on the development. If AIDA never sees the light of day, though, it will be a huge shame.

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Hubble Spots Beautifully Tangled Galaxy

Space

Hubble Spots Beautifully Tangled Galaxy

Posted By liveworld

New observations by the Hubble space telescope have revealed a complex structure of gas ribbons around elliptical galaxy NGC 4696, located 150 million light-years away.

The crimson filaments, discovered more than 15 years ago, have now been studied in detail by an international team led by astronomers at the University of Cambridge. The tendrils are 30,000 light-years in length and 200 light-years thick, and they have a density 10 times higher than the surrounding gas.  

With these gas tentacles, you’ve probably seen enough galaxies to know where this is going. The culprit of the complex structure is the supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy. It floods the inner core of the galaxy with energy, and the cold gas is pushed out by the bubbling action of the radiation pressure.

The filaments have a total mass of 1.6 million times that of the Sun, and combined with the increased density of the gas, this would usually imply new stars being born, but the researchers didn’t spot any and they think new star-formation is being hindered by the strong magnetic field.

This incredible dust lane is not an exclusive to this galaxy, but the newly released image is absolutely breathtaking. Dust lanes are usually left-over artifacts of galaxy mergers, the bigger of which are actually responsible for forming ellipticals from a collision between two spiral galaxies.

All the observations and the analysis conducted by the researchers is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

NGC 4696 is the central and biggest galaxy of the Centaurus cluster, which counts hundreds of objects as its members. It’s in the same category of some of the brightest and most massive galaxies in the universe, and it this wasn’t enough, the phenomenal red streaks seen by the astronomers make NGC 4696 a true space oddity.

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Doctors Warn Of Drinking Too Much Water When Ill

Health and Medicine

Doctors Warn Of Drinking Too Much Water When Ill

Posted By liveworld

It’s a frequent recommendation by doctors when a patient is ill: Drink plenty of water. But health experts have warned not to take the long-established advice too literally, as doctors recently treated a patient who drank so much water that she became seriously ill.

When ill, you are at an increased risk of becoming dehydrated, and so need to compensate by drinking more water in order to aid recovery. Yet in a case highlighted by medics at King’s College hospital, and reported in BMJ Case Reports, it seems a 59-year-old patient went a little overboard and overdosed on water.

“When people are ill they don’t tend to drink very much water because it’s the last thing they want to do and you can become dehydrated very quickly,” explained Dr Maryann Noronha, co-author of the case report, to The Guardian. “To counteract that risk, doctors have said ‘Make sure you drink lots of water.’ That has perpetrated the myth that you must drink gallons of water. Most people don’t do that but in this case they did it to the letter.”

Suffering from a urinary tract infection, the woman drank plenty of water to “flush out her system,” consuming a previously recommended half pint every 30 minutes. Yet rather than helping her, the vast amounts of liquid instead meant she was admitted to the hospital with acute hyponatremia, caused by incredibly low sodium (salt) levels in her blood. This happens if a patient’s blood levels fall under 134 mmol/L.

Doctors recorded the woman’s blood sodium levels at a dangerously low 123 mmol/L, while a healthy person should have levels in the region of 135 to 147 mmol/L. This basically means that the blood was so dilute, extra water started to enter the cells of the body. This can also occur when people who are exercising hydrate too much, or even when people taking drugs such as ecstasy try to overcompensate for the amount they are sweating. It can then result in the potentially fatal swelling of tissue, especially if it occurs in the brain.  

With normal renal function, the authors note, it’s difficult to overdose on water. However, those with certain illnesses can develop increased levels of antidiuretic hormones, which in turn reduces their excretion of water.

The woman with the urinary tract infection, who eventually recovered, was not the only case mentioned in the report. The authors also mentioned a patient with gastroenteritis who developed hyponatremia, resulting in death. These cases, they suggest, mean that doctors should highlight “the need to qualify our advice regarding water consumption in simple infective illness.” While it’s important to stay hydrated when ill, patients should be careful when that’s due to infection, as they risk further complications.

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Women's Importance In Space Science Recognized By New NASA Website

Space

Women's Importance In Space Science Recognized By New NASA Website

Posted By liveworld

NASA has launched a new website dedicated to the women, past and present, who have played a major part in advances in spaceflight.

NASA actually has a long history of supporting women in space science, though perhaps their achievements haven’t been recognized quite as well as they should have been. However, we appear to be riding a wave of recognition for women’s contribution to the space program, following on from the release of Margot Lee Shetterly’s best-selling book Hidden Figures and the soon-to-be released film of the same name.

Hidden Figures reveals the history of the “human computers”, the black female mathematicians recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor to NASA, in the 1940s during the labor shortages of WWII right through to the Space Race and the first Moon landing. The film concentrates on Katherine Johnson, one of the most well-known of these “computers”, who calculated the flight trajectories for Project mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 landing that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.

The achievements of Margaret Hamilton, another computer scientists who was crucial to the success of the Apollo 11 landing, were recently recognized nationally when President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the US – last week. 

NASA’s new Modern Figures website is dedicated to these human computers as well as the women today who are continuing their legacy.

The website features biographies, interviews, galleries, projects, and missions as well as resources for teachers and educators. It celebrates the women who helped put a man on the Moon, while looking forward to the women who are going to be instrumental in putting a person – man or woman – on Mars.

At a time when fear of discrimination against women and minorities in science is a very real threat, it’s reassuring to see an agency of such prominence not only give women who might be regarded as unsung heroes the attention they deserve, but to remind us that diversity in science is what is going to keep driving us forward.

“Progress is driven by questioning our assumptions and cultural prejudices. By embracing and nurturing all the talent we have available, regardless of gender, race or other protected status,” says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the introductory video.

“To build a workforce as diverse as our missions, embracing diversity and inclusion is how we, as a nation, take the next giant leap in exploration.”

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