Tag Archives: #truth

Do You Know The Mass Of Milky Way Within 100 Kpc? (Astronomy)

Astronomers using a large sample of halo stars estimated the mass of the Milky Way out to 100 kpc and found that it is 6.31 ± 0.32(stat.) ± 1.26(sys.) × 10¹¹ M

The total mass of the Milky Way has been an historically difficult parameter to pin down. Despite decades of measurements, there remains an undercurrent of elusiveness surrounding “the mass of the Milky Way”. However, the continued eagerness to provide an accurate measure is perhaps unsurprising — the mass of a halo is arguably its most important characteristic. For example, almost every property of a galaxy is dependent on its halo mass, and thus this key property is essential to place our “benchmark” Milky Way galaxy in context within the general galaxy population. In addition, the host halo mass is inherently linked to its subhalo population, so most of the apparent small scale discrepancies with the ΛCDM model are strongly dependent on the Milky Way mass. Moreover, tests of alternative dark matter candidates critically depend on the total mass of the Milky Way, particularly for astrophysical tests.

Milky way © wallpaper cave

The uncertainty has stemmed from two major shortcomings:
(1) a lack of luminous tracers with full 6D phase-space information out to the viral radius of the Galaxy, and (2) an underestimated, or unquantified, systematic uncertainty in the mass estimate.

However, there has been significant progress since the first astrometric data release from the Gaia satellite. This game-changing mission for Milky Way science provided the much needed tangential velocity components for significant numbers of halo stars, globular clusters and satellite galaxies. Indeed, there are encouraging signs that we are converging to a total mass of just over 1×10¹²M. However, mass estimates at very large distances (i.e. beyond 50 kpc), are dominated by measures using the kinematics of satellite galaxies, which probe out to the virial radius of the Galaxy. It is well-known that the dwarf satellites of the Milky Way have a peculiar planar alignment, and, without independent measures at these large distances, there remains uncertainty over whether or not the satellites are biased kinematic tracers of the halo.

Arguably the most promising tracers at large radii are the halo stars. They are significantly more numerous than the satellite galaxies and globular clusters, and are predicted to reach out to the virial radius of the Galaxy. There currently exist thousands of halo stars with 6D phase-space measurements, thanks to the exquisite Gaia astrometry and wide-field spectroscopic surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) survey. Moreover, with future Gaia data releases and the next generation of wide-field spectroscopic surveys from facilities such as the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, the WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer, and the 4-metre Multi-Object Spectroscopic Telescope, there will be hundreds of thousands of halo stars with 6D measurements. The magnitude limit of Gaia and the complementary spectroscopic surveys will likely limit the samples of halo stars to within ∼100 kpc, but this is still an appreciable fraction of the virial radius (∼0.5𝑟200c), and will probe relatively unchartered territory beyond 50 kpc.

As we enter a regime of more precise mass measures, and significantly reduced statistical uncertainties, it is vital to be mindful of any systematic influences in our mass estimates. Although many mass-modelling techniques assume dynamical equilibrium, it is well-documented that “realistic” stellar haloes can be a mash-up of several coherent streams and substructures. Thus, comparisons with cosmologically motivated models of stellar haloes are crucial. However, while cosmological simulations can provide much needed context, the unique assembly history of the Milky Way is most relevant for Galactic mass measurements. For example, the influence of the Sagittarius (Sgr) stream, which contributes a significant fraction to the total stellar halo mass, needs to be considered. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, it has recently been recognised that the recent infall of the massive Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) can imprint significant velocity gradients in the Milky Way halo. Indeed, Erkal et al. (2020) showed that these velocity gradients can bias equilibrium based mass modelling, and is thus an effect that can no longer ignore.

In this work, researchers compile a sample of distant (𝑟 > 50 kpc) halo stars from the literature with 6D phase-space measurements, and use a distribution function analysis to measure the total mass within 100 kpc. They pay particular attention to systematic influences, such as the Sagittarius (Sgr) stream and the LMC, and, where possible, correct for these perturbative effects.

The resulting circular velocity (left panel) and mass (right panel) profiles as a function of galactocentric radius. The results when no velocity offset is applied (dashed lines) and when Sgr stars are included (purple lines) are also shown. The shaded regions indicate the 1- 𝜎 uncertainty. © deason et al.

They used a rigid Milky Way-LMC model to constrain the systematic reflex motion effect of the massive LMC on their halo mass estimate. And found that, simple velocity offset correction in 𝑣los and 𝑣𝑏 can minimize the overestimate caused by the reflex motion induced by the LMC, and, assuming a rigid LMC mass of 1.5 × 10¹¹ M, they can recover the true mass within 1-𝜎.

Phase-space diagrams (𝑣𝑟 vs. 𝑟) for four example Auriga haloes, and the Milky Way data (bottom
panels). The top two panels show Auriga haloes with shell-type structures in the radial range 50-100 kpc. The middle two panels show cases with no obvious shells. Typically, the presence of shells causes the mass estimates to be underestimated. In the bottom two panels they show the 𝑣los vs. 𝑟 diagram for the observational sample in the distance range 50 < 𝑟/kpc < 100. In the bottom left panel they show each individual star and the associated 𝑣los errors. The red points indicate the stars that likely belong to the Sgr stream. The bottom right panel shows a 2D histogram in the 𝑣los-𝑟 space. Here, they have taken into account uncertainties in the distance and velocity of each star. Note that Sgr stars are excluded in the right-hand panel. ©deason et al.

Then by applying their method to a sample of Milky Way-mass haloes from the Auriga simulation they found that the halo masses are typically underestimated by 10%. However, this bias is reduced to ∼ 5% if we only consider haloes with relatively quiescent recent accretion histories. The residual bias is due to the presence of long-lived shell-like structures in the outer halo. The halo-to-halo scatter is ∼20% for the quiescent haloes, and represents the dominant source of error in the mass estimate of the Milky Way.

They also found that the mass of milky way within 100 kpc is 6.31 ± 0.32(stat.) ± 1.26(sys.) × 10¹¹ M. A systematic bias correction (+5%), and additional uncertainty (20%), are included based on their results from the Auriga simulations and found that the mass estimates are slightly higher when they do not include a velocity offset to correct for the reflex motion induced by the LMC, or slightly lower when Sgr stars are included in their analysis.

Their mass estimate within 100 kpc is in good agreement with recent, independent measures in the same radial range. If they assume the predicted mass-concentration relation for Navarro-Frenk-White haloes, their measurement favours a total (pre-LMC infall) Milky Way mass of 𝑀200c = 1.05 ± 0.25 × 10¹²M, or (post-LMC infall) mass 𝑀200c = 1.20 ± 0.25 × 10¹²M when a rigid 1.5 × 10¹¹M LMC is included.

References: Alis J. Deason, Denis Erkal, Vasily Belokurov, Azadeh Fattahi, Facundo A. Gómez, Robert J. J. Grand, Rüdiger Pakmor, Xiang-Xiang Xue, Chao Liu, Chengqun Yang, Lan Zhang, Gang Zhao, “The mass of the Milky Way out to 100 kpc using halo stars”, ArXiv, 2020. https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.13801

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NTU Singapore Scientists Devise ‘Trojan Horse’ Approach To Kill Cancer Cells Without Using Drugs (Oncology / Medicine)

Cancer cells are killed in lab experiments and tumour growth reduced in mice, using a new approach that turns a nanoparticle into a ‘Trojan horse’ that causes cancer cells to self-destruct, a research team at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has found.

Image: The anti-cancer therapeutic nanoparticle is ultrasmall, with a diameter of 30 nanometres, or approximately 30,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair, and is named Nano-pPAAM.

The researchers created their ‘Trojan horse’ nanoparticle by coating it with a specific amino acid – L-phenylalanine – that cancer cells rely on, along with other similar amino acids, to survive and grow. L-phenylalanine is known as an ‘essential’ amino acid as it cannot be made by the body and must be absorbed from food, typically from meat and dairy products.

Studies by other research teams have shown that cancer tumour growth can be slowed or prevented by ‘starving’ cancer cells of amino acids. Scientists believe that depriving cancer cells of amino acids, for example through fasting or through special diets lacking in protein, may be viable ways to treat cancer.

However, such strict dietary regimes would not be suitable for all patients, including those at risk of malnutrition or those with cachexia – a condition arising from chronic illness that causes extreme weight and muscle loss. Furthermore, compliance with the regimes would be very challenging for many patients.

Seeking to exploit the amino acid dependency of cancer cells but avoid the challenges of strict dietary regimes, the NTU researchers devised a novel alternative approach.

Figure 1. Schematics illustrating the working principle of A) conventional nutrient deprivation and B) the proposed nanoparticles mediated approach to kill cancer cells. Illustration created with BioRender.

They took a silica nanoparticle designated as ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ by the US Food and Drug Administration and coated it with L-phenylalanine, and found that in lab tests with mice it killed cancer cells effectively and very specifically, by causing them to self-destruct.

The anti-cancer therapeutic nanoparticle is ultrasmall, with a diameter of 30 nanometres, or approximately 30,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair, and is named “Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic”, or Nano-pPAAM,

Their findings, published recently in the scientific journal Small, may hold promise for future design of nanotherapies, said the research team.

Assistant Professor Dalton Tay from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, lead author of the study, said: “Against conventional wisdom, our approach involved using the nanomaterial as a drug instead as a drug-carrier. Here, the cancer-selective and killing properties of Nano-pPAAM are intrinsic and do not need to be ‘activated’ by any external stimuli. The amino acid L-phenylalanine acts as a ‘trojan horse’ – a cloak to mask the nanotherapeutic on the inside.”

“By removing the drug component, we have effectively simplified the nanomedicine formulation and may overcome the numerous technological hurdles that are hindering the bench-to-bedside translation of drug-based nanomedicine.”

Intrinsic anti-cancer therapeutic properties of Nano-pPAAM

As a proof of concept, the scientists tested the efficacy of Nano-pPAAM in the lab and in mice and found that the nanoparticle killed about 80 per cent of breast, skin, and gastric cancer cells, which is comparable to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs like Cisplatin. Tumour growth in mice with human triple negative breast cancer cells was also significantly reduced compared to control models.

Further investigations showed that the amino acid coating of Nano-pPAAM helped the nanoparticle to enter the cancer cells through the amino acid transporter cell LAT1. Once inside the cancer cells, Nano-pPAAM stimulates excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) production – a type of reactive molecule in the body – causing cancer cells to self-destruct while remaining harmless to the healthy cells.

Co-author Associate Professor Tan Nguan Soon from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine said: “With current chemotherapy drug treatment, a common issue faced is that recurrent cancer becomes resistant to the drug. Our strategy does not involve the use of any pharmacological drugs but relies on the nanoparticles’ unique properties to release catastrophic level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to kill cancer cells.”

Providing an independent view, Associate Professor Tan Ern Yu, a breast cancer specialist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital said, “This novel approach could hold much promise for cancer cells that have failed to respond to conventional treatment like chemotherapy. Such cancers often have evolved mechanisms of resistance to the drugs currently in use, rendering them ineffective. However, the cancer cells could potentially still be susceptible to the ‘Trojan horse’ approach since it acts through a completely different mechanism – one that the cells will not have adapted to.”

The scientists are now looking to further refine the design and chemistry of the Nano-pPAAM to make it more precise in targeting specific cancer types and achieve higher therapeutic efficacy.

This includes combining their method with other therapies such as immunotherapy which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer.

References: Zhuoran Wu, Hong Kit Lim, Shao Jie Tan, Archana Gautam, Han Wei Hou, Kee Woei Ng, Nguan Soon Tan, and Chor Yong Tay, “Potent-By-Design: Amino Acids Mimicking Porous
Nanotherapeutics with Intrinsic Anticancer Targeting Properties”, Small Journal, pp. 1-12, DOI: 10.1002/smll.202003757

Provided by Nanyang Technological University

This Technology Of POSTECH Can Diagnose Covid-19 In Just 30 Minutes (Medicine)

POSTECH professors Jeong Wook Lee and Gyoo Yeol Jung’s team develops a one-pot diagnostic method for detecting pathogenic RNAs with PCR-level sensitivity. Diagnostic technology for new infectious diseases can be developed within a week to prevent confusion caused by new epidemics in the future

The year 2020 can be summarized simply by one word – COVID-19 – as it was the culprit that froze the entire world. For more than 8 months so far, movement between nations has been paralyzed all because there are no means to prevent or treat the virus and the diagnosis takes long.

In Korea, there are many confirmed cases among those arriving from abroad but diagnosis does not take place at the airport currently. Overseas visitors can enter the country if they show no symptoms and must visit the screening clinic nearest to their site of self-isolation on their own. Even this, when the clinic closes, they have no choice but to visit it the next day. Naturally, there have been concerns of them leaving the isolation facilities. What if there was a way to diagnose and identify the infected patients right at the airport?

A joint research team comprised of Professor Jeong Wook Lee and Ph.D. candidate Chang Ha Woo and Professor Gyoo Yeol Jung and Dr. Sungho Jang of the Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH have together developed a SENSR (SENsitive Splint-based one-pot isothermal RNA detection) technology that allows anyone to easily and quickly diagnose COVID-19 based on the RNA sequence of the virus.

This technology can diagnose infections in just 30 minutes, reducing the stress on one single testing location and avoiding contact with infected patients as much as possible. The biggest benefit is that a diagnostic kit can be developed within week even if a new infectious disease appears other than COVID-19.

The PCR molecular test currently used for COVID-19 diagnosis has very high accuracy but entails a complex preparation process to extract or refine the virus. It is not suitable for use in small farming or fishing villages, or airport or drive-thru screening clinics as it requires expensive equipment as well as skilled experts.

RNA is a nucleic acid that mediates genetic information or is involved in controlling the expression of genes. The POSTECH researchers designed the test kit to produce nucleic acid binding reaction to show fluorescence only when COVID-19 RNA is present. Therefore, the virus can be detected immediately without any preparation process with high sensitivity in a short time. And it is as accurate as the current PCR diagnostic method.

Using this technology, the research team found the SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA, the cause of COVID-19, from an actual patient sample in about 30 minutes. In addition, five pathogenic viruses and bacterial RNAs were detected which proved the kit’s usability in detecting pathogens other than COVID-19.

Another great advantage of the SENSR technology is the ease of creating the diagnostic device that can be developed into a simple portable and easy-to-use form.

If this method is introduced, it not only allows onsite diagnosis before going to the screening clinic or being hospitalized, but also allows for a more proactive response to COVID-19 by supplementing the current centralized diagnostic system.

“This method is a fast and simple diagnostic technology which can accurately analyze the RNA without having to treat a patient’s sample,” commented Professor Jeong Wook Lee. “We can better prepare for future epidemics as we can design and produce a diagnostic kit for new infectious diseases within a week”

Professor Gyoo Yeol Jung added, “The fact that pathogenic RNAs can be detected with high accuracy and sensitivity, and that it can be diagnosed on the spot is drawing attention from academia as well as industry circles.” He explained, “We hope to contribute to our response to COVID-19 by enhancing the current testing system.

The study, which was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on September 18 (KST), was conducted with the support from the National Research Foundation’s C1 Gas Refinery Program and New Research Program, and by the Industry Specialist Training Program from the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning.

References: Woo, C.H., Jang, S., Shin, G. et al. Sensitive fluorescence detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in clinical samples via one-pot isothermal ligation and transcription. Nat Biomed Eng (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-020-00617-5 link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-020-00617-5

Provided by Pohang University Of Science and Technology

Your Smartphone Is Designed To Hack Your Brain (Psychology)

The word “hack” gets thrown around a lot these days. “Life hacks” include everything from life-changing study techniques to using a shoe-organizer to organize things besides shoes. And then there are “brain hacks”, which supposedly teach us to access powers we didn’t know our brains possessed. But there’s a more insidious form of brain-hacking — when your brain is the thing being hacked. And smartphone developers are doing it to you all the time.

“This thing is a slot machine,” says former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris, holding up his phone. “Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?'” It’s incredibly addictive, especially since you don’t have to pay a single cent to pull the lever. And smartphone developers know that, so they’ve designed their software to tickle your rewards center.

One example? When you get “likes” on Instagram, you don’t necessarily find out when they happen. Instead, the ‘gram sometimes saves up your notifications and delivers them all in one big burst. That kind of a windfall can feel like a rush, even if what you won is essentially valueless. And it keeps you coming back for more.

It’s all about “intermittent variable rewards”, which encourage you to keep on checking your smartphone over and over because it might pay off: maybe that guy you’re fighting on Twitter has posted an asinine reply, maybe your friends have responded to the picture you uploaded, maybe something hilarious and exciting is going down and you’re the last to know about it. Whatever the reward, there’s a chance that it’s waiting for you on your phone — and there’s a chance it’s not, as well. The only way to find out is to check it, and check it, and check it, ad infinitum.

Of course, your reward center isn’t the only primal heartstring your phone knows how to tug. When you upload a group picture, Facebook tries to guess who’s in it and encourages you to tag them. That makes you feel connected to your friends and family, and when you follow through on the suggestion, it draws them back in as well. Snapchat makes a game out of users’ habits by tracking how many days in a row they’ve snapped something — you gotta keep that streak going.

The only question left to answer is “why” — if you’re not gambling with money when you hit that slot machine, then what do the companies get out of your addictive use? The answer, ominously, is you. The more they can encourage users to stay logged in, to keep returning to the well, the more they can charge their advertisers. It’s like they say: “If you’re not paying, you’re the product.”

Now, we’re not saying that you have to give up your social media entirely. But it’s worthwhile to take a minute to recognize what you’re getting out of the accounts that you’ve signed up for. And once you realize that, you might figure out a better, healthier way to scratch that itch.

To Harris, the problem starts in tech companies assuming that and behaving as if their technology is neutral. And the only solution comes in a redesign from the technology out. In other words, the attention economy is inherently flawed because it will inevitably lead to more and more powerful hacks meant to hijack your brain and direct it in the most profitable direction.

But there are ways to start dealing with a personal smartphone addiction at home — and they aren’t much different from breaking any other addiction. The Week provides a set of five suggestions that would be pretty useful for any narcotic

• First, say “I don’t,” not “I can’t.” That takes some of the pressure off and reminds you that it’s not that you can’t, it’s that it’s not who you want to be.
• Next, try making your phone inaccessible. That could be as simple as leaving it one room to charge while you stay in another. But the longer it’s in your pocket, the more it preys on your mind.
• Try setting a stopping rule. That might be something like, “I don’t go past the first page of Reddit.” Voila — you’re no longer losing hours to the internet.
• The next tip is to replace your bad habits with habits you want to encourage instead. That’s as simple as picking up a book.
• And finally, be ready for pushback. Your brain doesn’t react well to losing its addictions.

And it’s important to forgive yourself for relapsing. But stick to all of these methods, and you’ll have your smartphone habit well in hand in no time.

There’s A Strange Reason Why So Many People Regain Weight After Dieting (Biology)

Anyone who has tried to lose weight and keep it off knows how difficult the task can be. It seems like it should be simple: Just exercise to burn more calories and reduce your calorie intake. But many studies have shown that this simple strategy doesn’t work very well for the vast majority of people.

A dramatic example of the challenges of maintaining weight loss comes from a recent National Institutes of Health study. The researchers followed 14 contestants who had participated in the “World’s Biggest Loser” reality show. During the 30 weeks of the show, the contestants lost an average of over 125 pounds per person. But in the six years after the show, all but one gained back most of their lost weight, despite continuing to diet and exercise.

Why is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off? Weight loss often leads to declines in our resting metabolic rate — how many calories we burn at rest, which makes it hard to keep the weight off. So why does weight loss make resting metabolism go down, and is there a way to maintain a normal resting metabolic rate after weight loss? As someone who studies musculo-skeletal physiology, I will try to answer these questions.

Activating muscles deep in the leg that help keep blood and fluid moving through our bodies is essential to maintaining resting metabolic rate when we are sitting or standing quietly. The function of these muscles, called soleus muscles, is a major research focus for us in the Clinical Science and Engineering Research Center at Binghamton University. Commonly called “secondary hearts,” these muscles pump blood back to our heart, allowing us to maintain our normal rate of metabolic activity during sedentary activities.

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) refers to all of the biochemical activity going on in your body when you are not physically active. It is this metabolic activity that keeps you alive and breathing, and very importantly, warm.

Quiet sitting at room temperature is the standard RMR reference point; this is referred to as one metabolic equivalent, or MET. A slow walk is about two MET, bicycling four MET, and jogging seven MET. While we need to move around a bit to complete the tasks of daily living, in modern life we tend not to move very much. Thus, for most people, 80 percent of the calories we expend each day are due to RMR.

When you lose weight, your RMR should fall a small amount, as you are losing some muscle tissue. But when most of the weight loss is fat, we would expect to see only a small drop in RMR, as fat is not metabolically very active. What is surprising is that relatively large drops in RMR are quite common among individuals who lose body fat through diet or exercise.

The “World’s Biggest Loser” contestants, for example, experienced a drop in their resting metabolic rate of almost 30 percent even though 80 percent of their weight loss was due to fat loss. A simple calculation shows that making up for such a large drop in RMR would require almost two hours a day of brisk walking, seven days a week, on top of a person’s normal daily activities. Most people cannot fit this activity level into their lifestyle.

There’s no question that eating a balanced diet and regular exercise are good for you, but from a weight management perspective, increasing your resting metabolic rate may be the more effective strategy for losing weight and maintaining that lost weight.

Metabolic activity is dependent on oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body. This occurs through blood flow. As a result, cardiac output is a primary determinant of metabolic activity.

The adult body contains about four to five liters of blood, and all of this blood should circulate throughout the body every minute or so. However, the amount of blood the heart can pump out with each beat is dependent on how much blood is returned to the heart between beats.

If the “plumbing” of our body, our veins in particular, was made of rigid pipes, and the skin of our legs was tough like that of bird legs, cardiac outflow would always equal cardiac inflow, but this is not the case. The veins in our body are are quite flexible and can expand many times their resting size, and our soft skin also allows lower body volume expansion.

As a result, when we are sitting quietly, blood and interstitial fluid (the fluid which surrounds all the cells in our body) pools in the lower parts of the body. This pooling significantly reduces the amount of fluid returning to the heart, and correspondingly, reduces how much fluid the heart can pump out during each contraction. This reduces cardiac output, which dictates a reduced RMR.

Our research has shown that for typical middle-aged women, cardiac output will drop about 20 percent when sitting quietly. For individuals who have recently lost weight, the fluid pooling situation can be greater because their skin is now much looser, providing much more space for fluids to pool. This is especially the case for people experiencing rapid weight loss, as their skin has not had time to contract.

For young, healthy individuals, this pooling of fluid when sitting is limited because specialized muscles in the calves of the legs — the soleus muscles — pump blood and interstitial fluid back up to heart. This is why soleus muscles are often referred to as our “secondary hearts.” However, our modern, sedentary lifestyles mean that our secondary hearts tend to weaken, which permits excessive fluid pooling into the lower body. This situation is now commonly referred to as “sitting disease.”

Moreover, excessive fluid pooling can create a vicious cycle. Fluid pooling reduces RMR, and reduced RMR means less body heat generation, which results in a further drop in body temperature; people with low RMR often have persistently cold hands and feet. As metabolic activity is strongly dependent on tissue temperature, RMR will therefore fall even more. Just a 1 degree Fahrenheit drop in body temperature can produce a 7 percent drop in RMR.

One logical, though expensive, approach to reduce fluid pooling after weight loss would be to undergo cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin to eliminate the fluid pooling space created by the weight loss. Indeed, a recent study has confirmed that people who had body contouring surgery after losing large amounts of weight due to gastric banding surgery had better long-term control of their body mass index than people who did not have body contouring surgery.

A much more convenient approach to maintaining RMR during and after weight loss is to train up your secondary hearts, or soleus muscles. The soleus muscles are deep postural muscles and so require training of long duration and low intensity.

Tai chi, for instance, is an effective approach to accomplish this. However, we’ve observed that many people find the exercises onerous.

Over the last several years, investigators in the Clinical Science and Engineering Research Lab at Binghamton University have worked to develop a more practical approach for retraining the soleus muscles. We have created a device, which is now commercially available through a university spin-off company, that uses a specific mechanical vibration to activate receptors on the sole of the foot, which in turn makes the soleus muscles undergo a reflex contraction.

In a study of 54 women between the ages of 18 and 65 years, we found that 24 had secondary heart insufficiency leading to excessive fluid pooling in the legs, and for those women, soleus muscle stimulation led to a reversal of this fluid pooling. The ability to prevent or reverse fluid pooling, allowing individuals to maintain cardiac output, should, in theory, help these individuals maintain RMR while performing sedentary activities.

This premise has been confirmed, in part, by recent studies undertaken by our spin-off venture. These unpublished studies show that by reversing fluid pooling, cardiac output can be raised back to normal levels. Study results also indicate that by raising cardiac output back to normal resting levels, RMR returns to normal levels while individuals are sitting quietly. While these data are preliminary, a larger clinical trial is currently underway.

We Now Know, How Animals Got Their Magnetic Sense (Animals / Biology)

The identity of a magnetic sensor in animals remains enigmatic. Although the use of the geomagnetic field for orientation and navigation in animals across a broad taxonomic range has been well established over the past five decades, the identity of the magnetic-sensing organ and its structure and/or apparatus within such animals remains elusive—‘a sense without a receptor’. Recently, Vortman and colleagues proposed that symbiotic magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) may serve as the underlying mechanism behind a magnetic sense in animals—‘the symbiotic magnetic-sensing hypothesis’.

Magnetotactic bacteria are a special type of bacteria whose movement is influenced by magnetic fields, including the Earth’s.

Animals that sense Earth’s magnetic field include sea turtles, birds, fish and lobsters. Sea turtles, for example, can use the ability for navigation to return to the beach where they were born.

Learning how organisms interact with magnetic fields can improve humans’ understanding of how to use Earth’s magnetic fields for their own navigation purposes. It can also inform ecological research into the effects of human modifications of the magnetic environment, such as constructing power lines, on biodiversity. Research into the interaction of animals with magnetic fields can also aid the development of therapies that use magnetism for drug delivery.

In the article, the researchers review the arguments for and against the hypothesis, present evidence published in support that has arisen in the past few years, as well as offer new supportive evidence of their own.

Their new evidence comes from Fitak, who mined one of the largest genetic databases of microbes, known as the Metagenomic Rapid Annotations using Subsystems Technology database, for the presence of magnetotactic bacteria that had been found in animal samples.

Previous microbial diversity studies have often focused on large patterns of the presence or absence of bacteria phyla in animals rather than specific species.

Fitak found, for the first time, that magnetotactic bacteria are associated with many animals, including a penguin species, loggerhead sea turtles, bats and Atlantic right whales.

For instance, Candidatus Magnetobacterium bavaricum regularly occurred in penguins and loggerhead sea turtles, while Magnetospirillum and Magnetococcus regularly occurred in the mammal species brown bats and Atlantic right whales.

According to Fitak, researchers still don’t know where in the animal that the magnetotactic bacteria would live, but it could be that they would be associated with nervous tissue, like the eye or brain.

Before joining UCF in 2019, Fitak worked for more than four years as a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University performing experiments to identify genes related to a magnetic sense in fish and lobsters using modern genomic techniques.

The hypothesis that animals use magnetic bacteria in a symbiotic way to gain a magnetic sense warrants further exploration but still needs more evidence before anything conclusive can be stated.

References: Eviatar Natan et al, Symbiotic magnetic sensing: raising evidence and beyond, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2020). DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0595 link: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0595

It Doesn’t Take Long To Believe Your Own Lies (Psychology)

We believe the lies we tell are the truth in as little as 45 minutes, according to a new study.

Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor the brain activity of younger and older adults while they gave truthful and false answers on questionnaires. In the study, the older cohort, ages 60-92, were significantly more likely than the 18-24-year-olds to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier.

“Older adults have more difficulty distinguishing between what’s real and not real,” says first author Laura Paige, a former graduate student in the lab of Angela Gutchess, an associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University.

Paige says her findings suggest that telling a falsehood scrambles older people’s memory so they have a harder time recalling what really happened, in effect giving greater credence to the lie.

“Once they’ve committed to a lie, it’s going to alter whether they remember doing something,” says Paige, who now works for Applied Marketing Science, a market research and consulting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts.

In the study, 42 participants, about half seniors and half millennials, were given a form with 102 questions about what they did the previous day. The form asked them to respond to questions such as “Did you press snooze on your alarm clock?” and “Did you use a fork to eat lunch?”

On half the questions, chosen at random, the researchers told the subjects to lie. Forty-five minutes later, the respondents answered the same questionnaire. This time, researchers told them to answer all the questions truthfully.

The central research question was: Did the lie stick? When the participants lied on a question the first time, did they remember they had lied or did they now think the lie was the truth?

The results showed that compared to the younger group, older adults were more inclined to believe the lie.

In addition, the EEG data revealed that lying engaged the brain processes responsible for working memory. According to Paige, this finding suggests a lie can embed itself in memory and come to feel as real as the truth.

“Lying alters memory,” she says. “It creates a new memory for something that didn’t happen.”

The research appears in the journal Brain and Cognition.

The Chinsekikan Is A Japanese Museum Of Rocks That Look Like Faces (Amazing Places)

The Chinsekikan is certainly a unique museum. Here’s a clue as to what it holds: the name of the place translates to “hall of curious rocks.” But we’re not talking about sparkling geodes or polished, spherical boulders. Japan’s Chinsekikan contains nothing but rocks that look like faces. Seriously.

Chinsekikan museum, Img credit: gettyimages

This Japanese museum puts your childhood rock collection to shame. The Chinsekikan, located in Chichibu, Japan (about two hours northwest of Tokyo), holds approximately 1,700 rocks that—kind of—resemble faces. According to Colossal, there are jinmenseki, or rocks with a human face, of pop culture icons in the mix too: Elvis Presley, E.T., Donkey Kong, Nemo, and more. (Sure, not all of those are humans, but apparently that’s not a huge problem.)

Colossal explains, “the museum is currently run by Yoshiko Hayama, the wife of the original owner who passed away in 2010. But it was his rock collection that started it all. An avid collector, the late Shozo Hayama spent 50 years collecting rocks that looked like faces.” The one stipulation for rocks to make it into the museum? Besides looking like a face, the only artist must be nature.

At the end of the day, it’s just rocks in there. There’s a scientific explanation for why humans have a tendency to see faces in things that are definitely not faces: it’s called pareidolia. (Ever look at the grill of a car and see an angry expression?) And apparently, neurotic people are more prone to this tendency than others. According to Science of Us, “Their nerves put them on higher alert for threats, which may mean that they see danger where it actually isn’t. In this case, the researchers argue, that danger takes the form of a face.”

Phone Calls Create Stronger Bonds Than Text-Based Communications (Psychology)

New research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests people too often opt to send email or text messages when a phone call is more likely to produce the feelings of connectedness they crave.

They carried out an experiment on 200 people in which they asked those people to make predictions about what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend either via email or phone, and then they randomly assigned them to actually do it. Even though participants intuited that a phone call would make them feel more connected, they still said they would prefer to email because they expected calling would be too awkward.

But the phone call went much better than an email, researchers found.

In one another experiment, researchers randomly assigned strangers to connect either by texting during a live chat, talking over video chat, or talking using only audio. Participants had to ask and answer a series of personal questions such as, “Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?” or “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”

Participants didn’t expect that the media through which they communicated would matter, and in this case they also predicted that they would feel just as connected to the stranger via text as by phone.

But the researchers found when they really interacted, people felt significantly more connected when they communicated by talking than by typing. And, again, they found it wasn’t more awkward to hear each other’s voices.

In fact, the voice itself—even without visual cues—seemed to be integral to bonding, the researchers found.

Confronting another myth about voice-based media, researchers timed participants reconnecting with their old friend. They found the call took about the same amount of time as reading and responding to email.

According to researchers, the results both reveal and challenge people’s assumptions about communication media at a time when managing relationships via technology is especially important.

References: Amit Kumar et al. It’s surprisingly nice to hear you: Misunderstanding the impact of communication media can lead to suboptimal choices of how to connect with others., Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2020). DOI: 10.1037/xge0000962