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Apr 27, 2017, 05:20 AM
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 31 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
What Do Elephants Do All Day? 2 Hours Of Sleep Leaves Time To Eat, Find Drinking Water, And Play

By Elana Glowatz
IBT
4/26/2017

Two hours of sleep each night sounds like an awful way for a human to live, but it might be normal rest for elephants.

Researchers tracked two “wild, free-roaming African elephant matriarchs” in Botswana for a study in PLOS One to determine their activity levels throughout the day, with the help of a GPS collar and a more scientific version of the Fitbit fitness watches humans use to monitor their own activity levels, implanted into the elephants’ trunks.

Why the trunk? “We reasoned that measuring the activity of the trunk, the most mobile and active appendage of the elephant, would be crucial, making the reasonable assumption that if the trunk is still for five minutes or more, the elephant is likely to be asleep,” researcher Paul Manger said in a statement from Wits University in South Africa.

The two elephant leaders averaged two hours of sleep per day — and not even all at once; they accumulated the sleep between about 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., most often in a standing position.

That's after a long day of eating and drinking, an elephant's most time-consuming activity. According to the World Wildlife Fund, African elephants mostly eat leaves and branches but may also feed on grass and fruit. They also spend time roaming to look for food and water sources, with occasional breaks to play.

According to the new PLOS One study, the females “displayed the shortest daily sleep time of any mammal recorded to date” and because they only slept lying down every three or four days, they might not often experience REM sleep, a deep form of sleep thought to be important for memory and learning. But elephants are known for their strong long-term memory, so the idea that they are not getting REM sleep raises questions about the little we think we know about the process.

Watch: An elephant wanted to play with a rhino. Oh dear.

The elephants could also go almost two days without sleep without needing to make up for lost time: “The amount of activity between sleep periods did not affect the amount of sleep.”

It is unclear, however, if the sleep patterns the researchers observed would extend to non-matriarch elephants, including males. Still, learning more about sleep in elephants, such as why and how they snooze, can help shape wildlife conservation and give scientists clues about human sleep.

“While there are many hypotheses regarding the function of sleep, the ultimate purpose of sleep is yet to be discovered,” Manger said.

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4JGBKr10Vs

 32 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 05:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Climate Change Threatens Polar Bears Using Arctic Wind To Hunt Seals

By Elana Glowatz
IBT
4/26/2017

When polar bears are looking for their next meal, the wind points them in the right direction. But climate change might one day take away that crucial tool in the bears’ hunt for seals to eat.

That’s according to a study in the journal Scientific Reports, for which researchers followed dozens of adult polar bears and studied wind patterns for more than 10 years at Canada’s Hudson Bay. That large body of water in the northeastern part of the country is just outside the Arctic Circle, above the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec and bordering Nunavut. Scientists say it is at risk if climate conditions on Earth change because, among other consequences, Arctic winds would pick up.
Stronger winds would interfere with how the researchers have observed the polar bears there searching for food. Their study says when the bears sniff a seal on the wind, they follow the wind to its source to also find the source of the smell and their potential prey. And when they are on the hunt for a whiff of seal they walk perpendicular to the wind, across the gusts, to find a nice scent stream to take a hold of.

polar-bear-196318_1920 Polar bears have been found to use scents traveling on the wind while hunting for their next seal meal. Photo: Pixabay, public domain

“Travelling crosswind gives the bears a steady supply of new air streams and maximizes the area they can sense through smell,” lead author Ron Togunov said in a statement from the University of Alberta.

And that’s especially because the time they most often move cross-wind is a time of low visibility, due to darkness: Moving cross-wind “occurred most frequently at night during winter, the time when most hunting occurs,” the study said.

Meanwhile, when fast winds that “impede olfaction” came coursing through, the bears tended to move downwind.

The reason bears use smells on the hunt is “because winds can carry odours across the complex icescape,” according to the study. Experts have known that polar bears use scent to hunt but these findings quantify that idea. And it’s been proposed that other animals use similar hunting techniques.

But if climate change caused Arctic winds to blow faster, it may interfere with polar bears’ ability to hunt using their noses. There’s also less sea ice in their environment for the animals to rely upon.

“Because of changes that are occurring environmentally, the polar bears have a decreased body condition (and) lower fat reserves,” Togunov told the Edmonton Journal. “This might be another thing that might lead to polar bears being in worse condition and more aggressive toward humans.”

 33 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 05:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Glacier feeds blood-colored waterfall in Antarctica

International Business Times
25 Apr 2017 at 13:41 ET     

Blood Falls in Antarctica is famous for its red flow, but the source of that crimson has been a mystery for many years. Scientists now think they have an answer: The water runs red with a glacier’s blood.

Taylor Glacier is feeding the “waterfall,” which is really more like an ooze of briny water that turns red when exposed to air because of its high iron content. A study in the Journal of Glaciology revealed researchers used radar to track the flow and found its genesis beneath the glacier.

Water trapped under a glacier is the culprit behind Blood Falls. Photo: Erin Pettit/University of Alaska Fairbanks

Even though the air temperature is close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the study said, the process of freezing water within the glacier actually releases heat. When combined with the lower freezing temperature of salty water, it’s possible for liquid to exist within a super cold glacier.

“While it sounds counterintuitive, water releases heat as it freezes, and that heat warms the surrounding colder ice,” glaciologist Erin Pettit said in a statement from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Taylor Glacier is now the coldest known glacier to have persistently flowing water.”

The university said the salty water might “have been trapped under Taylor Glacier for more than 1 million years,” slowly feeding Blood Falls.

The discovery may challenge what we think we know about glaciers. Since Taylor Glacier sits on top of this flow of salty water, it stands to reason that others at subfreezing temperatures may also. The researchers wrote in their study it’s possible “a cold glacier with an average ice temperature of [14 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit] may be able to sustain a freshwater hydrologic system.”

 34 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Ukraine still feeling Chernobyl’s effects 31 years later

International Business Times
25 Apr 2017 at 18:29 ET 


Thirty-one years ago Wednesday, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded, commencing the worst nuclear disaster in history. More than three decades later, the 1986 meltdown is still considered the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The area surrounding Chernobyl was previously home to 16,000 people. Now, the barren land is populated only by those workers involved in the plant’s cleanup, an occasional group of tourists and a vast variety of wildlife unknowingly living in the radiation left behind.

    The explosion still ranks as the worst nuclear disaster in history. Only the incident in Chernobyl and the meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 were ranked as a level seven event on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
    The disaster began in the midst of a systems test at reactor number four. A spike in power and an emergency shutdown led a reactor to rupture, sparking a series of explosions.
    An estimated 30 people were killed in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown. A report issued by Greenpeace revealed that the world could see more than 200,000 eventual cancer deaths as a result of Chernobyl.
    Almost five million people currently living in areas considered contaminated, according to Greenpeace.
    The accident released 5,300 PetaBecquerels of radiation, according to some estimates. That amount is nearly 10 times that which was released during the meltdown of Fukushima’s Daiichi power plant in 2011.
    The closest town to the explosion, Pripyat, was evacuated a full two days after the disaster.
    Over 350,000 people were ultimately evacuated from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus from 1986 to 2000.
    The countries most affected by contamination from the disaster were Ukraine, where the plant was located, Belarus and Russia.
    After the explosions, radioactive rain was recorded as far away as Ireland.
    Chernobyl was opened to tourists in 2011. The area is frequently overrun by animals such as moose, bison, horses, wolves, bears and other creatures that have been living in the midst of the radiation.
    The giant cement sarcophagus housing the 200 tons of radiation began to crack in recent years, leading workers to construct a new steel arch called the New Safe Confinement to put over the cement.
    People living in the area were still eating food affected by radiation in recent years. Greenpeace issued a report in 2016 stating that 30 years after the incident, locally produced food contained radioactive contamination.

 35 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 04:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Mexico's ancient city guards its secrets but excavation reveals new mysteries

An eight-year project at Teotihuacán, once the western hemisphere’s largest city, failed to locate its rulers’ tomb but findings offered tantalising clues to its origins

Nina Lakhani in Teotihuacán
AFP
Monday 24 April 2017 10.00 BST

For decades, the hunt for a royal tomb at the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacán has gripped archaeologists trying to unravel the secrets of the kingdom’s extraordinary political power.

It is a mystery investigators thought they were on the verge of solving in 2015, when large quantities of liquid mercury were found amid a treasure trove of precious artefacts in a secret tunnel.

Tiny troughs containing mercury were discovered along the 103-metre (338ft) corridor under the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, the third-biggest temple of the ruined city 35 miles (56km) north of Mexico’s present-day capital.

It was the first time the toxic substance had been found at an ancient site in Mexico, and the discovery fuelled expectations that the search for the tomb was almost over.

But after almost eight years of painstaking excavations inside the pyramid, hopes of finding the buried remains of Teotihuacán’s enigmatic rulers are fading.

“At the beginning of this investigation we thought the tunnel was a metaphoric representation of the underworld, the place of creation and transmission of power, and that we would find a tomb of Teotihuacán’s leaders in this very scared place,” lead archaeologist Sergio Gómez told the Guardian.

“It would have been a transcendent discovery which would help us understand Teotihuacán’s power structure and system of government, but we have almost finished the excavation – and there is no tomb,” said Gómez.

Construction at Teotihuacán began around 150BC, and continued until 250AD. At its height, the city covered 21 square miles and was home to as many as 200,000 people, making it the largest city in the western hemisphere.

It was abandoned around 550AD.

Much of its history remains unknown. Archaeologists had hoped that the discovery of a royal tomb would help resolve whether the city was governed by family dynasties – as was the case with the contemporary Mayan civilization – or ruled by leaders who shared powers.

The 20-metre tunnel was discovered accidentally in 2003 when torrential rains exposed the entrance.

In 2009, scientists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) became the first people to enter the tunnel in almost 1,500 years.

In 2014, archaeologists found three large chambers at the end of the tunnel, almost 20 metres beneath the temple. Excitement mounted with the discovery the following year that the earth appeared to have been sculpted into elegant miniature landscapes depicting mountains and valleys, with drops of mercury deposited to symbolize sacred rivers or lakes.

But the tomb was never found.

The absence of a tomb could mean the chambers were never used for burial – or that it was removed at some point. The tunnel was sealed with debris around 250AD, but there are signs that it was re-entered about 530AD.

“We have evidence that something very large and heavy was dragged out of the tunnel at some point. It could have been a tomb, but we just don’t know,” said Gómez.

More than 100,000 objects have been recovered, which contributed to new understandings of the origins and status of the city.

Among the most significant artefacts are four almost perfectly preserved greenstone statutes – three women and one man – found near the entrances of the chambers.

The women were adorned with necklaces and earrings, and carried backpacks full of symbolic objects including tiny mirrors believed to help communication with the future and past. The mirrors and eyes are made from pyrite – or fool’s gold.

One female and the male were still standing when discovered at the end of the tunnel.

“My hypothesis is that these sculptures represent the founders of Teotihuacán, those who had the power to decide the ideal place to establish a new city. They were standing because they were alive at the time,” said Gomez, a former psychologist.

The three female statues could mean women played a fundamental role in the power structure in the early phases of Teotihuacán, postulates Gómez.

“During the first period of Teotihuacán, its economic system and riches were linked to agriculture and women were heavily associated with the cult of fertility. But this changed and the smaller naked man probably represents this process of change.

“To me, these statues are even more exciting than finding a tomb as they tell us about the origins of Teotihuacán,” he said.

An array of gigantic conch shells from the Caribbean, Pacific and Gulf coasts were also found in the tunnel. Some are engraved with distinctive Mayan hieroglyphics, confirming strong ties between the elites of Teotihuacán and Mayan communities as far south as Guatemala and Belize.

Other relics include exquisite jade ornaments imported from Guatemala, woven straw mats probably reserved for the elites, rubber balls used in an ancient ball game, striking ceramics pots from neighbouring states, and animal bones from migratory birds, jaguars and even a bear.

Most of the recovered objects are being painstakingly logged, restored and reconstructed at the onsite laboratories.

Exact replicas of the four sparkling green statues have been made in order to aid investigators as they try to make sense of the tunnel, chambers and abundance of relics.

After suffering two collapses during the excavation, the tunnel is considered too fragile and dangerous to open to the public. Instead, INAH will create an interactive virtual tour to guide visitors through the discoveries.

 36 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
New study looks at how your favorite dog breed came to be

Popular Science
26 Apr 2017 at 00:39 ET 

The most extensive evolutionary map of dog breeds ever made

Dogs: We love them. Like, a lot. In fact, humans have been hanging out with doggos for at least 15,000 years or so, and likely a lot longer. Over the course of that long, mutually beneficial friendship, we've done a lot of strange things to our four-legged companions, controlling their reproduction to coax them into breeds that suit our (sometimes absurd) needs.

While all pups are members of the same species (Canis lupus familiaris, descended from the gray wolf), we've created more than 350 distinct varieties to date (to say nothing of the increasingly popular labradoodles and their hybrid ilk). By selecting traits that make dogs better at hunting, guarding, herding, or fitting inside purses, we've successfully turned one species into a group that includes 243-pound Great Danes and Chihuahuas smaller than a shoe.

What cuteness hath we wrought.

So although dogs represent just one species, their evolutionary history is a fascinating one. Scientists still aren't sure how and when we first domesticated those ancestral gray wolves, let alone how each historical breed first came to be. But in a study published Tuesday in Cell Reports, researchers use the DNA of 1,346 modern dogs, representing 161 breeds, to put together the most complete version of this puzzle to date.

The evidence shows dogs were first bred into broad "types" that filled particular niches—not the breeds we know today.

"First, there was selection for a type, like herders or pointers, and then there was admixture to get certain physical traits," study co-author and dog geneticist Heidi Parker of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a statement. This would have taken place as humans moved from hunter-gatherer lifestyles into more permanent settlements.

Many of these basic traits seem to have been selected for multiple times, in different places, to show up in different lineages. That makes a lot of sense, if you think about it: humans who made the move to farming would all want their dogs to help them herd and guard livestock, even if they were living thousands of miles apart.

Only in the last couple of centuries did humans start to nitpick tiny changes in appearance and temperament in order to create modern breeds, according to the study. "I think understanding that types go back a lot longer than breeds or just physical appearances do is something to really think about," Parker said.

In many cases, the results line up perfectly with logical turning points in history. "For example, when dog fighting was a popular form of entertainment, many combinations of terriers and mastiff or bully-type breeds were crossed to create dogs that would excel in that sport," the authors note in the study. "In this analysis, all of the bull and terrier crosses map to the terriers of Ireland and date to 1860–1870. This coincides perfectly with the historical descriptions that, though they do not clearly identify all breeds involved, report the popularity of dog contests in Ireland and the lack of stud book veracity, hence undocumented crosses, during this era of breed creation."

They saw another interesting historical signature in "gun dogs" (Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters, for example), which exploded into a cornucopia of new breeds right around the Victorian era. So dogs that were roughly suited to the kind of austere hunting pursuits popular in that time were honed into breeds designed for the task at hand—collecting prey shot down by their dapper masters.

The researchers also believe they've uncovered a less obvious chapter in canine history: the elusive New World Dog. Most of the breeds that slobber over America today are descended from ones domesticated in Europe, but some of the genomes sequenced in the new study showed evidence of an older, Asian ancestor: a subspecies that came to our continent when humans first entered it. This may be the first time scientists have found genes that appear to come from this ancestor within a modern American dog's DNA. They showed up in some hairless breeds from Central and South America.

"What we noticed is that there are groups of American dogs that separated somewhat from the European breeds," Parker said in a statement. "We've been looking for some kind of signature of the New World Dog, and these dogs have New World Dogs hidden in their genome." These dogs have since bred extensively with European breeds (and with each other), so it's not clear just which genes came from where.

But those ancient questions aren't the only ones left to answer. As researchers work to understand the evolution of the dog—an endeavor that can help us understand our own history, as well as help us develop treatments for some of the ailments from which our modern canine companions suffer—they'll need to keep collecting more genomic data. Right now, more than half the dog breeds in existence have not had their genome sequenced.

"If we see a breed that we haven't had a good sample of to sequence, we definitely make a beeline for that owner," co-author Elaine Ostrander, also of NIH, said in a statement. "And say, 'Gosh, we don't have the sequence of the Otterhound yet, and your dog is a beautiful Otterhound. Wouldn't you like it to represent your breed in the dog genome sequence database?' And of course, people are always very flattered to say, "Yes. I want my dog to represent Otterhound-ness."

What dog owner could ask for more? And research on canine disease could help humans, to boot.

"Using all this data, you can follow the migration of disease alleles and predict where they are likely to pop up next, and that's just so empowering for our field because a dog is such a great model for many human diseases," Ostrander added. "Every time there's a disease gene found in dogs it turns out to be important in people, too."

 37 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 04:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Giant rabbit dies on United Airlines flight to United States

Reuters
26 Apr 2017 at 06:18 ET                   

A 3-foot giant rabbit has died on a United Airlines flight from London, prompting a review at the Chicago-based airline which faced a global backlash this month over its treatment of a passenger who was dragged from his seat.

The 10-month old rabbit named Simon, who was tipped to become one of the world’s largest rabbits, was traveling to O’Hare in Chicago from Britain after a celebrity owner purchased him.

He was healthy before the flight, according to the rabbit’s breeder.

“Simon had a vet’s check-up three hours before the flight and was fit as a fiddle,” breeder Annette Edwards told The Sun newspaper. “Something very strange has happened and I want to know what.”

The Continental Giant breed rabbit died in the cargo section of a Boeing 767 after leaving Heathrow, she said.

“I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before,” Edwards, a former Playboy model, was quoted as saying. “The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset.”

United said it was saddened by the news of Simon’s death.

“We were saddened to hear this news,” said United spokesman Kevin Johnston in an emailed response. “We have been in contact with our customer and have offered assistance. We are reviewing this matter.”

“The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team,” the United spokesman said.

Earlier this month, a United passenger, Dr. David Dao, was dragged from his seat off a parked plane at O’Hare International Airport bound for Louisville, Kentucky, to make room for crew members.

Video recorded by other passengers showed Dao, a 69-year-old doctor, being dragged down the aisle with blood on his face after refusing to give up his seat on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky on April 9.

 38 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 04:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
There’s a new generation of water pollutants in your medicine cabinet

The Conversation
21 Apr 2017 at 08:31 ET                   

Every day we each use a variety of personal care products. We wash our hands with antibacterial soaps and clean our faces with specialty cleansers. We wash and maintain our hair with shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products. We use deodorant and perfume or cologne to smell nice. Depending on the day, we may apply sunscreen or insect repellent. The Conversation

All of these products contribute to our quality of life. But where do they go after we use them?

When we bathe, personal care products wash off of our bodies and into sewer systems that carry them to regional wastewater treatment plants. However, these plants are not designed to treat the thousands of specialty chemicals in pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Many of the active and inactive ingredients present in these products pass through our wastewater treatment plants and ultimately end up in rivers, streams or oceans.

Once in the environment, these chemicals may cause hormonal effects and toxicity in aquatic animals. In my laboratory we are studying these emerging water pollutants, which are turning up in surface water, groundwater and even treated drinking water. Although they are typically found at low concentrations, they may still threaten human and ecological health.

New pollutants, present worldwide

Personal care products and their ingredients are widely distributed throughout our environment. In one recent study, our lab aggregated over 5,000 measurements of active ingredients from a variety of personal care products that were found in untreated wastewater, treated wastewater and surface waters such as rivers and streams. They included N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, or DEET, an insect repellent; galaxolide, a fragrance; oxybenzone, a sunscreen; and triclosan, an antibacterial compound.

Other studies conducted near the Mario Zucchelli and McMurdo & Scott research bases confirmed that chemicals in personal care products were even present in Antarctic seawater. Those reports identified the presence of plasticizers, antibacterials, preservatives, sunscreens and fragrances in the Antarctic marine environment. Together, these studies suggest that the active ingredients in personal care products can be found in any water body influenced by human activity.

These substances are typically present in the aquatic environment at concentrations of 10 to 100 nanograms per liter, which is equivalent to 1 to 2 drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. But even at these low levels, some still pose a risk.
Moving up the food chain

Depending on their chemical properties, we can classify some of these products as hydrophilic (“water-loving”) or lipophilic (“lipid-loving”). The fat layers in our bodies are comprised of lipids, so lipophilic personal care products can accumulate in the tissue and organs of aquatic animals like fish, birds and even dolphins.

Our group has recently detected a suite of sunscreen agents and 17α-ethinylestradiol, a synthetic form of the hormone estrogen that is the active ingredient in birth control pills, in crayfish from urban streams near Baltimore, Maryland. We have also measured sunscreens in oysters and mussels collected from the Chesapeake Bay. The uptake of these chemicals by aquatic animals raises environmental concerns.

Specifically, as lipophilic chemicals from personal care products accumulate in animals at higher concentrations, there is a greater potential for them to cause toxic effects. For instance, many personal care products disrupt hormone systems in the body. Some chemicals used in personal care products affect reproductive systems and function, causing the feminization of male fish.

These reproductive effects can have important consequences for aquatic animals in the environment, and they may even represent a potential health risk for humans. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of triclosan and a number of other antibacterial agents in antiseptic wash products due, in part, to health risks associated with hormonal effects.

Recent research has shown that oxybenzone, a sunscreen agent used in many personal care products, is toxic to corals. For many coastal communities, coral reefs are critical to local economies. For example, the net value of Hawaii’s coral reefs is estimated to be US$34 billion.

Earlier this year Hawaii introduced legislation to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate in order to protect coral reefs. While research and policymaking are still ongoing in this area, it is important to note that a number of new consumer products have started using labels like “coral safe” and “reef safe.”

Multiple solutions

Typical wastewater treatment plants are designed to treat multiple pollutants, including organic carbon from human and food waste; nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus; and pathogenic bacteria and viruses that cause disease. However, they are not equipped to handle the many ingredients of concern that are present in personal care products.

Protecting the environment and human health from these substances will require progress in several areas. They include improving technologies for wastewater treatment plants; conducting more testing and regulation of personal care products to avoid unintended toxicity to aquatic animals; and designing “green chemicals” that do not pose toxicity concerns. This multi-pronged approach will help us to ensure that personal care products continue to improve our quality of life without harming the environment.

Lee Blaney, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 39 
 on: Apr 26, 2017, 04:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Peggy Whitson logs more space hours than any other US astronaut: A history of women and NASA

On Monday, Peggy Whitson had been in space for a cumulative 534 days, setting a new record and inspiring future female STEM professionals across the United States.

Weston Williams
CS Monitor   

April 25, 2017 —Early Monday morning, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson set a new record for the longest time in space for any US astronaut, hitting a landmark 534 cumulative days in orbit. Fellow astronaut Jeff Williams set the previous record only last year.

Dr. Whitson will continue to extend the new record for the duration of her stay as current commander on the International Space Station, ultimately to more than 650 cumulative days, setting a high bar for those looking to break her record.

This is not the first time Whitson has made NASA history, however. The astronaut and biochemist also became the first woman commander of the ISS in 2007 and the first woman to command the station twice, earlier this year. She is also the oldest US woman to have completed a spacewalk, and has done more spacewalks than any other female NASA astronaut.

To many, Whitson's many accomplishments are striking examples of what women can accomplish in a space-related field. But her many firsts also stand as reminders of what still needs to be done to support women in STEM fields, allowing women to break new ground alongside men on the forefront of space technology and exploration.

Women have been a part of NASA history from the start. The early space program employed women in a number of on-the-ground capacities serving as administrative officials, medical personnel, mathematicians, and engineers.

But from the outset of the program, there was a clear preference to place men in top positions, with women often taking up lower-rung tasks despite equal or superior ability and educational background. The problem was particularly stark for potential astronauts; while a number female astronaut candidates tested well for potential space missions as far back as the Mercury program, it was decades before a woman was to actually be launched into space from US soil.

These potential astronauts faced many obstacles, including a 1958 policy that required all astronauts to be military test pilots, which effectively banned American women from going to space until the mid-1960s, since the military employed no female pilots at the time.

In the Soviet Union, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963, but the superpower did not send another woman into orbit until 1982.

Even after the end NASA's military-pilots-only policy, a female American astronaut would not launch into space until 1983, when Sally Ride entered orbit on the space shuttle Challenger. Since then, women have become an increasingly visible part of NASA's space program, and have recently gained even greater recognition in popular culture, thanks to the award-winning film "Hidden Figures" about female African-American mathematicians at NASA in the late 1960s, and the recently approved "Women of NASA" Lego set.

"Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program, a.k.a. NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated – especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)," wrote science writer Maia Weinstock in the Lego set proposal.

This kind of encouragement and positive representation is especially important for young girls, noted Whitman in a video conference between the White House and the ISS on Monday with President Trump, Ivanka Trump, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.

"I don't really think [being an astronaut] became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected," Whitson said. She also said that traveling to Mars could be a real possibility in the coming decades and urged young students to focus on their studies in order to be a part of it.

"I want all the young people out there to recognize that the real steps [of traveling to Mars] are going to be taken in a few years. And so by studying math, science, engineering, any kind of technology, you're going to have a part in that. And that will be very exciting," Whitson added.

Examples of success can be an important part of encouraging girls to pursue projects and careers in more complex fields of study, especially in STEM fields, which are still largely dominated by men. As The Christian Science Monitor reported in October 2016:

    Between 1901 and 2015, only 49 out of 870 Nobel prizes for individuals have been awarded to women. One explanation is that there are simply fewer women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) jobs, as the US Census Bureau data shows. But it leads to a question that many have been asking: Why aren't more women participating in STEM fields?

    The answer, some experts say, may lie in working environment and gender biases that discourage women from progressing across scientific fields and sometimes entering it in the first place.

    "What we're seeing is there is still very slow progress and a lot of attrition," Beth Mitchneck, professor of geography at the University of Arizona, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. "Women leave the field to a higher degree than men – and academic or leadership positions, they're not getting those."

Of course, not everyone can be an astronaut. But astronauts have long held a special place in the heart of the American public, and their visibility often makes them role models for young people who are just beginning to consider the possibility of entering a STEM field. And breaking a record in space is a great way to encourage the next generation to work together to break even more records.

"It's actually a huge honor to break a record like this," Whitson said during the livestream. "It's an honor for me, basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make space flight possible and who make me setting this record feasible."

Whitson is expected to return to Earth in September 2017.

 40 
 on: Apr 25, 2017, 07:53 PM 
Started by soleil - Last post by soleil
Hi Rad and all,

Thanks, Rad, for posting those charts and the link to the article, which was a great expose. I hope Putin doesn’t also manage to plant a damaging false story about Macron in the press, like he did so many times with Hillary. With only a week and a half to go, I bet he’s going to try.

Re the terrorist attack you mentioned that happened just before the first round of elections, I’m sure Putin planned that as well, to try to boost Le Pen’s chances.

Even though Macron is currently leading in the polls, I hope he doesn’t get complacent and over-confident. As you said, Putin is backing Le Pen all the way and he certainly succeeded here in the U.S. by getting that insane buffoon elected.

On election day in France, Lucifer (at 4 Sagittarius) will be almost conjunct Macron’s natal Lucifer (at 10 Sagittarius). How do you think that’s going to bear on Macron’s chances?

You’re absolutely right that this influence of Evil is primarily manifesting worldwide in rural areas. Amazing that these rural area, which have the least population (as well as the least-informed voters, and the whitest skin) have disproportionately high leverage in elections these days.

Thanks. Really interesting stuff.

All the best,

Soleil

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