Where is the International Space Station RIGHT now?!

This is beyond cool.

We all like HD… but the ISS is taking it to a new level with their HDEV: High Defenition Earth Viewing experiment.  You can keep up with the International Space Station through their online “Live View” Camera, and can see, in real time, where the ISS is and their view of the earth through the HDEV cameras.  Just a note, if the video is black, it means the ISS is over the “Night time” portion of the earth.


Ramadan and the World Cup: No problemo or a death wish?

Have you ever been to the gym? Or for a run? Or a bike ride? Or played soccer? Football? Basketball? You get hot, sweaty, and thirsty…  Now imagine doing that strenuous physical activity in tropical, humid brazil right now with average temperatures above 80F.

Now imagine you can’t have any water during that time. None.

With the onset of Ramadan, the holy month for Islam, a lot of people have been questioning the effects of this holiday on the muslim soccer players.  During Ramadan, followers are not permitted to eat OR DRINK during day light hours.  That means no water during the soccer games for athletes observing Ramadan.

Due to hot and humid conditions, this world cup has issued athletes take required water breaks in the middle of the games.  Yet, some of the most fantastic athletes, during one of the biggest most prestigious tournaments in the world, when they are expected to be at the height of their performance, will not be drinking water at all… due to religious reasons.  No water?! Surely that is insane?

But according to an article in the NYTimes, apparently fasting and not drinking water will have minuscule effect on the players.  Ron Maughan, a professor of sports nutrition at Loughborough University in England, conducted a study to examine the effects of fasting on athletes (prior to the 2012 London Olympics), and concluded that, “It might be fair to say there is no large effect.”  Apparently FIFA has also commissioned some studies to determine the effects of fasting:

“We made an important study with the doctor of the Algerian Football Federation, and it was very positive,” said Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee and a member of its executive committee. “If you do it intelligently, then you can adapt perfectly. Before the sun comes up, they have enough hydration to go on through the whole day.”

Really?! So it is totally OK not to stay hydrated THROUGHOUT the games?! This all seems a little fishy to me.  Especially with the overwhelming evidence supporting the importance of hydration during athletic activity, ESPECIALLY in the heat (A simple google search, another simple google search).  Furthermore, irregular hydration and fasting has consequences for proper sleep habits as well… and of course, proper sleep and rest is incredibly important for athletic performance (WebMD).   In an article in the Huffington PostAli Zogbhi, vice president of the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil, said on Brazilian TV: “Science has already proved that if you do physical exercise without eating you experience serious problems. Therefore, it is more sensible to allow players to not fast during this period.”

The good news is that oftentimes, for special circumstances, exemptions can be made for followers of Ramadan.  Other times, followers can essentially “take a rain check,” and skip a few days of fasting, and make up those days at a later time.

The World Cup is a big deal, and for some of these players, this is there one and only moment to shine.  Hydration and nourishment are essential for peak performance ability.  A lot of athletes take their religion seriously… but for the sake of their health and career, I hope they make an exception during this World Cup and continue drinking water!!!

Watch the NASA flying saucer (LDSD) test live today!


Watch the test of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator here! More info here.

The Saturday balloon launch window extends from approximately 8:15 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. HST (11:15 a.m. to 12-noon PDT). The balloon will take approximately 2-3 hours to achieve float conditions. Shortly thereafter, the test vehicle will be released from the balloon and the test will begin.

Check back here and on our Twitter sites: @NASA_Technology, @NASA, @NASAJPL and @NASA_Marshall to get the latest updates on the mission.

My previous post about the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator here.

This is so awesome! NASA is testing its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which is essentially the coolest REAL flying saucer contraption ever! This is the kind of thing you see in movies that doesn’t exist yet (for example, rocket motors that gyroscopically stabilize the saucer). The LDSD is in testing with the idea that it will be used to deliver large payloads to Mars… that’s right… to Mars!

“”We use a helium balloon—that, when fully inflated, would fit snugly into Pasadena’s Rose Bowl—to lift our vehicle to 120,000 feet,” said Mark Adler, project manager for the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “From there we drop it for about one and a half seconds. After that, it’s all about going higher and faster—and then it’s about putting on the brakes.”

A fraction of a second after dropping from the balloon, and a few feet below it, four small rocket motors will fire to spin up and gyroscopically stabilize the saucer. A half second later, a Star 48B long-nozzle, solid-fueled rocket engine will kick in with 17,500 pounds of thrust, sending the test vehicle to the edge of the stratosphere.”

New mammals reported this week!! Why we need more #science

This week scientists reported discovering 4 new mammalian species. How exciting is that? I always think it is crazy that there are so many animals, plants, and insects that we don’t know exist.


The first new mammal this week was published in the Journal of Mammology, and is a new round-eared sengi, or elephant shrew. This species is smaller than the other members in the genus, and was shown to be genetically different as well. Very cool!

“Genetically, Macroscelides micus is very different from other members of the genus and it’s exciting to think that there are still areas of the world where even the mammal fauna is unknown and waiting to be explored,” said Jack Dumbacher from California Academy of Sciences in the US.

Sengis are restricted to Africa and, despite their small size, are more closely related to elephants, sea cows, and aardvarks than they are to true shrews.

The rest of the new species reported this week come from a partnership between the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (headed by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas) and Euan Ritchie. These species are all from Papua New Guinea and were discovered using camera traps. The group plans to return for specimen collection and genetic testing for further proof that these are unknown mammals. Can’t wait to see the findings published!

The Docopsulus wallaby, a small marsupial, was captured on camera, as well as a “Dumbo” mouse with giant ears, and an antechinus, a sort of shrew-like marsupial.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time we have a massive biodiversity extinction crisis at the moment and the sad thing is that we lose many species before we even know they exist.”

It is great to see that both groups reporting the new mammals mention that the discoveries highlight the need for environmental protection and conservation. Check the linked articles and websites for more pictures of the new species and more info!

Update on the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa #badnews


Despite my earlier post about the low likelihood of the Ebola outbreak in Africa spreading to Europe or the USA, it seems that this outbreak is different than past outbreaks. In a bad way. CNN reports an update from the World Health Organization and includes quotes from personnel that are part of Doctors Without Borders, who are involved in dealing with the outbreak.

Ebola outbreaks usually are confined to remote areas, making the disease easier to contain. But this outbreak is different; patients have been identified in 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

It turns out that this outbreak is much wider in scope than past outbreaks, which could mean it is much more likely to spread out of the affected regions. Turns out that implementing treatment in the affected areas has also been a problem.

Complicating matters, these countries have major medical infrastructure challenges and there is a real sense of mistrust from communities there of the help that has been sent. In Sierra Leone and Guinea, WHO has said that community members have thrown stones at health care workers trying to investigate the outbreak.

An update from WHO reporting on the current efforts being taken for the outbreak.

The latest numbers, which change as cases are discovered, investigated, or discarded, are:

-Guinea has reported some 396 cases and 280 deaths

-Sierra Leone has 176 cases and 46 deaths

-Liberia reports 63 cases and 41 deaths.

For a horrifying description of what it is like to get ebola virus, see my repost of an article by Derek Gatherer from the Conversation. Scary stuff, but hopefully the outbreak will get under control and not spread.


TED Talk: “Why We Should Trust Scientists” by Naomi Oreskes

Great post!

History Chick in AZ

This is a great TED talk. Noami Oreskes, a historian of science, clearly explains why we should believe in science. We all need to make sure our students understand how and why science works. It is vital as a democracy that our citizens understand science. We are all paying the price for the current trend of denialism (vaccines, climate science, evolution).


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Scientists and researchers should lead the way in reducing carbon emissions. Here’s an idea how #Science


There is a great letter from Brett Favaro in Science this week about the environmental impact of doing science and research. It turns out that doing research in many cases is not that friendly to the environment, including the contribution of emissions and greenhouse gases. Laboratories require lots of equipment to be running all the time, sucking up electricity to monitor things, keep things at the right temperature (including tons and tons of freezer space), and keep science moving forward. Science also requires lots of disposable and single-use items, which fill up landfills and needs to be manufactured, shipped, and disposed of for every use.

Since most scientists from any field of science believe in man-made climate change, we should also be leaders in improving how we personally and professionally address this issue. If scientists that support the claim of climate-change don’t make any changes to lower emmissions, how can we expect anyone else to. It is called leading by example.

Favaro thinks that researchers should deal with carbon emissions in much the same way we deal with using animals for research. Carbon emission should be justified, and minimized in a similar justification and minimization scheme to animal experimentation. Where possible, researchers can ReplaceReduce, and Refine activities in order to lower carbon impacts. Favaro adds a 4th R that can help researchers lower carbon impacts, which is purchase of Reputable offsets.

It is great to see that scientists and researchers are thinking of how we can lead by example. Especially since many of our day to day experiments can be not so environmentally friendly. Check out Favaro’s article in Science for a better explanation.