A High-Altitude Balloon Captures Cloud Images to Improve Climate Models

A High-Altitude Balloon Captures Cloud Images to Improve Climate Models

Bjorn Kjellstrand woke up one July morning in Esrange, Sweden, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle ecstatic to find that finally, he had the highest resolution images of Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs) to date. After multiple all-nighters and several failed balloon launch attempts, he finally had the pictures which held the potential to completely revolutionize the world's current climate models.

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Dissecting Two-Photon Microscopy

Dissecting Two-Photon Microscopy

Before the advent of microscopy, scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci had to surreptitiously dissect the human body to gather insights into its functional anatomy. Now, two-photon microscopy has further advanced our ability to peer into living tissues with minimal intervention. For instance, two-photon microscopy allows your window of vision to penetrate through a living mouse’s brain and marvel at a neuronal cell’s inner workings. Pan the microscope underneath the skin and you will see hair follicle stem cells dividing and regenerating in real-time. Over a tumor bulge, you can observe metastatic cancer cells migrating and invading blood vessels. The mechanics of this visual journey relies on two photons meeting each other at the same place at the right time.

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ACHOO – A Tale of Uninvited Sneezes

ACHOO – A Tale of Uninvited Sneezes

Outside of normal sneezing exists an entirely separate group of sneezing-related phenomena. One particularly common condition that affects up to 35% of Americans is called the photic sneeze reflex. This reflex is conveniently abbreviated as ACHOO (Autosomal Dominant Compulsive Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome), so named because it involves sneezing in response to sudden increases in light intensity.

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The Positivity Effect: The Role of Resilience in Battling the Current Opioid Epidemic

The Positivity Effect: The Role of Resilience in Battling the Current Opioid Epidemic

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), nearly 100 million American adults report suffering from chronic or severe pain. Additionally, pain is a condition that disables more Americans in the US than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. The most recent definition of chronic pain is as follows, “a distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social components.” In accordance with the high prevalence of chronic pain, reports from the Centers for Disease Control concluded that the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the US are opioid analgesics despite a lack of evidence supporting their efficacy in treating chronic pain.

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Hacking Nature: Using Stem Cells to Combat Major Opioid Issues

Hacking Nature: Using Stem Cells to Combat Major Opioid Issues

3-D printing. Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. Robotic surgery. Gene editing. Higgs boson. The list goes on. These recent breakthroughs are becoming household words (and items), and they are a testament to the rapid expansion of our society’s technological capabilities. In the world of medical research, however, this paradigm has recently shifted towards exploring natural biological systems rather than focusing on the typical research areas of medical devices and drug development.

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The Key to Unlocking Pain Management

The Key to Unlocking Pain Management

How can the chemical structure of codeine, an opiate sold over-the-counter for years in cough medication, differ only slightly from that of a highly-regulated opiate like morphine? And why does this slight change in structure cause our bodies to respond differently to each drug? The answer comes down to the relationship between drug structure and function.

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Why Journalists and Scientists Should Chew the Fat

Why Journalists and Scientists Should Chew the Fat

Science and journalism have a delicate relationship. Science needs its message to disseminate through the public; journalists need news to disseminate. But like a group of children playing telephone, the message can become distorted. Mistakes are inevitable because research is messy. This quintessentially human endeavor is a lengthy and ongoing process that takes time to smooth out mistakes and biases. At best, these mistakes fizzle from the news circuit. At worst, they can harm public health.

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Across the Bench with Elizabeth Fernandez

Across the Bench with Elizabeth Fernandez

After a long day at work, you just want to unwind with some entertainment on your commute back home. What if you could learn about some fun scientific topics, say trash-eating robots or cannibalistic galaxies, through an engaging conversation? Hold on, we are not asking you to converse with your fellow commuters (god forbid!). You could just tune in to Elizabeth's podcasts to hear her interview experts on a wide range of topics that explore the role of science in our lives.

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The Standard Model High School

From supernovas to rain, humans to amoebas, all matter can be broken down into three key particles: electrons, protons, and neutrons. But over the years, scientists discovered even more particles, and that neutrons and protons could be broken down into even smaller parts, called elementary particles. Physicists created a theory called the Standard Model to interpret how elementary particles comprise the universe. The model is often depicted as a gigantic equation or as a periodic table of particles as a way to describe complex particle interactions. Strangely enough, some of these interactions are reminiscent of a time in our lives that we’re all too familiar with – high school.

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A New Age for Birth Control: Reversible Male Contraceptives on the Horizon

A New Age for Birth Control: Reversible Male Contraceptives on the Horizon

In November of 2016, you may have seen a version of a headline like this: “Male birth control study nixed after men can’t handle side effects women face daily”. Steeped in some truth (a study was indeed cancelled after men experienced harsh side effects similar to what many women experience) and masked by outrage (from readers and authors who didn’t know that the severity of side effects far exceeded those felt by women), the news clearly struck a chord with many people who wish for the burden of birth control to be shared by men and women.

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Sandwiches and Surface Markers: How to Analyze Flow Cytometry Data

Sandwiches and Surface Markers: How to Analyze Flow Cytometry Data

Every cell in an organism has unique functions which require specific proteins. For example, cells in eyes need proteins that can detect light, and immune cells use a variety of different proteins to detect and kill invading pathogens. To categorize each type of cell from a big group (say, from a blood sample, which contains many different cells), we can classify them based on their proteins. Now imagine you want to look at many different proteins on a lot of individual cells, and you want to do it fast. How can a scientist analyze almost twenty proteins on each cell, from millions of single cells, in less than an hour? This isn’t the imaginary dream of a tired graduate student, or a magical machine available only to the richest labs­—this is flow cytometry. 

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Stem Cell Dentistry: Revolutionizing Visits to the Dreaded Dentist’s Chair

Stem Cell Dentistry: Revolutionizing Visits to the Dreaded Dentist’s Chair

Can you imagine a trip to the dentist to treat a cavity that didn’t involve a filling, a root canal or dentures? What if there was a way that we could encourage your teeth to repair themselves? ‘Stem cell dentistry’ could revolutionize your future trips to the dreaded dentist’s chair after recent scientific breakthroughs – regenerative stem cell fillings and growing new teeth from scratch using stem cells!

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Across the Bench with Erica Brockmeier

You use chemicals every day like soaps, lotions, and toothpaste. Once those chemicals wash down the drain, are they safe for the next animal (like a fish) that might come into contact with them? Erica Brockmeier studies how animals respond when they are exposed to toxic chemicals. The goal of her project is to develop a system to more efficiently determine what type of chemicals that animals (including humans!) are exposed to.

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Sick in Space: Stress Compromises Astronauts’ Immune Systems

Two days before the launch of a routine space shuttle mission, a 47-year-old healthy astronaut submitted a saliva sample and ended up testing positive for the varicella zoster virus — the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles. This was, to say the least, unexpected. Following chickenpox infection, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in our nervous system and often doesn’t reactivate in healthy people under 60. So why would it reappear in a 47-year-old who is among the healthiest, most physically fit individuals of our workforce? Furthermore, why would it emerge before launch, before any potential dangers of space even presented themselves?

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The Usual Suspects: Pathogens That Cause Infectious Disease

We are constantly faced with news reports about infectious disease, but the sensationalism surrounding these diseases often drowns out important information. This article is the first of a three-part series exploring the basics of infectious disease, the factors contributing to disease incidences, and the steps scientists are taking to understand the origins of emerging infectious diseases.

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Disembodied Voices: Haunting Hallucinations and Their Origins

Do people actually hear voices, or are the sounds just figments of their imagination? Those who truly hear disembodied voices are likely experiencing a particular type of hallucination. Historically, hallucinations have been a powerful tool in storytelling, popping up in everything from the Euripides’ Greek tragedies to Shakespeare’s plays and more modern-day stories of demonic possession [12]. Sometimes these voices appear to have good intentions, like those which inspired Joan of Arc, while others seem to taunt or even torture, like those which ‘possess’ their victims, forcing them to do unthinkable things [3]. Hallucinations have captivated us for centuries, but the neurobiological basis for these phenomena is not well understood.

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