Over the past few years, studies have been undertaken to explore the possible impact of probiotics on behavior. It is within this context that the concept of a psychobiotic has arisen.
The authors of a new review article in Biological Psychiatry, Timothy Dinan and his colleagues from University College Cork in Ireland, define a psychobiotic as “a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.”
They review the evidence that these bacteria, when ingested in adequate amounts, offer enormous potential for the treatment of depression and other stress-related disorders.
Early life stress, such as maternal separation, is known to induce long-term changes in the microbiome. Dinan and his colleagues review one study that assessed the potential benefits of a specific probiotic, B. infantis, in rats displaying depressive behavior due to maternal separation. The probiotic treatment normalized both their behavior and their previously-abnormal immune response. This preclinical study and others like it strongly support the hypothesis that probiotics have the potential to exert behavioral and immunological effects.
Timothy G. Dinan, Catherine Stanton, John F. Cryan. Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic. Biological Psychiatry, 2013; 74 (10): 720 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.001
Asteroids’ close encounters with Mars
For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites — the remnants of asteroids that have crashed to Earth?
Scientists have thought that close encounters with Earth play a key role in refreshing asteroids. But now planetary scientists have found that Mars can also stir up asteroid surfaces, if in close enough contact. The team calculated the orbits of 60 refreshed asteroids, and found that 10 percent of these never cross Earth’s orbit. Instead, these asteroids only come close to Mars, suggesting that the Red Planet can refresh the surfaces of these asteroids.
Gerty Cori 1896- 1957
Gerty Cori emigrated to the United States in 1922 with her husband, Carl Cori. Together, they spent most of their marriage collaborating on scientific research involving enzymes. She and her husband found a way to manipulate enzymes so they would convert glycogen to sugar and then back again. In 1947, Gerty was awarded a Nobel for her work. She was the third woman to receive the award.
After winning the Nobel, Gerty went on to conduct important research on glycogen diseases in children. She was appointed by President Truman to the National Science Foundation’s Board of Directors. Other than the Nobel, Gerty won 10 awards for her work in medicine.
Frolicking in the autumn leaves, this little lion cub is having the time of her life as she excitedly plays in her enclosure.
Tiny cub Karis proved she’s not too dissimilar to human children as she threw herself into the pile of golden leaves carefully collected by her keepers, even ending up with a pile on her head.
Staff at the Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, Scotland, had been raking up the leaves to keep the attraction tidy, when Karis’s keeper Brian Reid realised that his little charge might enjoy playing in them and moved the pile into her enclosure.
There are more women in this screenshot than there are in the entire reboot
This scene right here in many ways encapsulates many of the frustrations I have with the Star Trek reboot, and most reboots in general. When you reboot a “groundbreaking” show, you should reboot the ideals of the show and the mission of the franchise, not just play on the nostalgia of old fans. Star Trek in the 60s comes in the middle of the Cold War and in the midst of the Civil Rights Era, so including different nationalities, a female black lieutenant, and an alien was a huge deal. Now? The same characters look dated in a reboot because Star Trek completed its original mission. Moreover, the reboot movies just don’t make any sense.
Too often, Star Trek traditionalists rage over J. J. Abrams “destroying” Star Trek by rewriting its history. That isn’t my biggest issue. Gene Roddenberry himself said that one day Star Trek would continue without him for a new generation and he would be okay with that, because he believed Star Trek belonged to the people. My issue is not a reboot itself, nor is it a fresh timeline. My problem is that this reboot makes Star Trek look so out of touch. The Cold War is over. The Civil Rights Movement has passed, and we have Star Trek as a reference piece of culture now. It’s time to “boldly go where no one has gone before” again.
It starts with the crew. The original Enterprise crew are heroes for sure, but their time has passed. They are the people we look back to for guidance now. Since Kirk, we’ve had a much more diplomatic and reserved captain in Picard, a more spiritual and combat-ready captain in Sisko (who also happened to be black and from New Orleans woot!), and we had probably our toughest captain ever in a woman with Captain Janeway. We’ve seen people of color and women take on larger roles within the shows for decades, so why must we now go back to play on nostalgia from the 60s. I would have hoped to see a more gender-balanced crew, and with all of the tensions in American politics between the US and the Islamic world, I think it would have been a Star Trek move to include a Muslim character on the crew just like the original Enterprise had a Russian flying the ship. Americans continue to debate whether gay people should be able to live their lives, so I think it would be a Star Trek move to have a gay character featured and have them be as competent and professional as Uhura and Chekov. Hell, we’ve represented various groups in Harry Kim, Nyota Uhura, Julian Bashir Chakotay, Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, O’Brien, Travis Mayweather, Hoshi Sato, and more. We’ve touched briefly on genderqueerness with Dax. Star Trek has gone there before. Why not go there again? In “playing it safe,” they’ve made Star Trek look dull and out of touch.
Next we have the plotlines themselves. Kirk and Spock’s friendship is legendary, obviously, but that friendship built over three seasons of television, and five movies, all of which hit the screen over the course of thirty years. What has boggled me by the last two Star Trek movies is the overwhelming focus on Kirk and Spock to the detriment of everything else going on. The last two movies have had the same arc: Kirk needs to learn to cool his jets, and Spock needs to learn that it’s okay to have feelings sometimes. Why? We already covered that. You established a crew, now go do something. I could pick apart the plot of Into Darkness for about four paragraphs here, but most of it comes down to too many references to Wrath of Kahn and other Star Trek media without any context to make it blend into a cohesive story. Fandom inside jokes can be great for a franchise so long as they don’t compromise the story for the uninitiated. If a good portion of your audience has no idea why we’re tossing around names and places, they’re not going to care and disconnect from the movie.
All of this leaves Star Trek as something uninspiring, and to be fair I think we’ve been here for a long time. Star Trek has always been a cult show, but we’ve been trapped in a movie franchise that you are only invested in because your parent(s) raised you on Star Trek since Star Trek: First Contact. Star Trek has just been a series of action movies set in space since the Picard movie era, and it has never pulled itself out of it. I want my competence Star Trek back. I want to see people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together to do their jobs as they explore new frontiers. I want to see outlets for conversations about the social, political, and economic issues we face in our society. That’s the Star Trek I want back. The characters and set pieces themselves do not make Star Trek what is it. It’s the stories that it tells with those characters.
Please, make Star Trek relevant again. Empower people. ALL PEOPLE. Women, men, people of all color, orientation, etc. We have too much apocalyptic fiction out there, where the only hero worth noting is the tough average joe. Give me a future where we continue to learn and grow by embracing our differences and working together.
Just a little Toothless doodle!
In the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than were those who didn’t consume nuts, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news. The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate the widespread worry that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.
Ying Bao, Jiali Han, Frank B. Hu, Edward L. Giovannucci, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, Charles S. Fuchs. Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine, 2013; 369 (21): 2001 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1307352
When NASA sends spacecraft to areas where solar power becomes difficult without very large panels that would be expensive and difficult to use, they usually rely on a simple power source called RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators), which create electricity from heat given off by plutonium decay (Pu-238 specifically, a safe form of plutonium, radiation aside). These generators last for years, but the thermocouples used in them are very inefficient. This combined with a plutonium shortage since the 1990s has led NASA to research a more efficient generator. The ASRG (Advanced Sterling Radioisotope Generator) would combine the heat of the plutonium with a simple piston engine to generate power at four times the efficiency, making the plutonium supplies last longer.
Unfortunately, NASA’s Planetary Science division recently announced they are canceling work on the ASRG due to budget constraints. The Department of Energy has recently begun making more plutonium for NASA use, but they are making it at a slower rate compared to the amount used on spacecraft like Cassini and New Horizons, meaning future probes could wait years for a sufficient power source using traditional RTGs. Curiously, NASA has been put in charge of the cost of the plutonium manufacturing and storage rather than the Department of Energy, who’s traditionally been responsible for it, placing an extra burden that when combined with sequestration forced NASA to abandon the ASRG program. This despite that it would ultimately serve to alleviate the plutonium shortage problem by using less.
To read more about the ASRG and its cancellation, including a video showing how it works, head here: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/casey-dreier/2013/20131115-nasa-just-cancelled-its-asrg-program.html
This is just the latest in a long line of things NASA has had to abandon due to a diminishing budget despite how easily it could be overcome. 0.48% of the federal budget goes to NASA, 1% would be enough to save this and many other projects. It has been done before (and beyond), it can be done again. Let Congress know what you think: http://www.penny4nasa.org/take-action