Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Thursday, November 24, 2016
What’s the helium situation? …and other updates on stories we covered last year.
Although we’re still not comfortable with the frivolous use of helium gas in party balloons, a recent discovery certainly gives MRI fans, astronauts and the boffins at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, reason to celebrate.
At the end of June this year, scientists from the University of Oxford and Durham University announced success in a helium hunt collaboration with Norwegian exploration firm Helium One. By combining traditional prospecting with seismic imaging and helium geochemistry, the team located the gas bubbling out of the ground in the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley. They estimate that this reserve might be as large as 1.5 billion cubic metres, or enough to fill around 1.2 million medical MRI scanners.
— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) June 28, 2016
Work done in the earth science department of each university predicted that volcanic activity could be important in releasing helium gas. The heat generated is enough to drive the gas out from rocks close to seismic activity and into gas fields just below the ground surface.
Although the research team and exploration firm still have to locate an extraction sweet spot, experts predict that the new reserve will ease the current helium shortage. They also note that the new approach can help find other helium reserves around the world.
In other gaseous news, it is encouraging to see the helium shortage taken seriously, especially by organizations outside the world of research. Last year, the British Medical Association called for a ban on the frivolous use of an invaluable and irreplaceable gas. Closer to home, the annual Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey went helium-free this year, and Victoria’s Backyard Weekender music festival might go the same way next year. Although some of the opposition is from their potential as harmful marine pollution, others did mention the global shortage as a reason to avoid using helium balloons.
A bigger, better Higgs?
Somewhat related to the helium update, since CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) complex relies on the gas to supercool its magnets, was the suggestion that a new particle may have been detected. Although scientists wisely regarded the data as random glitches from a particle-smashing event, physicists also acknowledged that if proven, the results could open a whole new direction for physics, overturning the Standard Model proven four years ago by the Higgs boson discovery.
Infuriatingly, the collider shut down for winter maintenance, and then reopening got derailed by weasel activity in the electrics, preventing researchers in two groups from running further tests to see if the double bumps seen in their LHC data were real. No word on whether they were discovered by a Higgs Hunter…
Eventually, reopening was worth waiting for, but also disappointing for the two teams. Even though the 2016 operating season brought higher collision energies in the LHC, allowing researchers to investigate the Higgs boson in more detail and continue the search for new disruptive particles, it also saw the data bumps vanish. If you’d like to see what disappointment at CERN looks like and commiserate alongside the researchers, here’s a BBC documentary from August 10.
But wait—there’s more! Yet another particle might be waiting in the “wings.” In September, the High Energy Physics Group at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, announced the possibility of a Madala boson. According to a press release from the university, if found and confirmed, this new boson could help scientists understand more about dark matter. The previously found Higgs boson interacts with regular or known matter according to the Standard Model in physics; dark matter, which forms 27% of the known universe and cannot be explained according to the Standard Model, probably has its own counterpart—the proposed Madala boson.
Phew! While we’re waiting, why not make a particle pizza and munch along in solidarity?
from Amanda – Talk Science to Me http://ift.tt/2gqZZCW
Friday, November 18, 2016
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
This weekend will see a gathering of the province’s veterinarians and staff in downtown Vancouver for the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Society of British Columbia Veterinarians (SBCV) Chapter Fall Conference and Trade Show. The program seems predominantly small animal–oriented, but in reality, vets across BC handle all sizes of patient, quadruped and biped, skin, scales, fur and feather in their daily working lives.
Have you ever wondered just how oddly varied a day’s work must be for a veterinarian?
While your local GP will open the surgery door to see only one species waiting in line, anything goes in the veterinarian’s waiting room—mammal, reptile, avian…fish?
For an example of the oddness routinely encountered by veterinarians, the first time I met with a chinchilla on the consult list, something that looked like a gremlin popped out of the pet carrier onto the table—not quite the fluffy cat I was expecting. Luckily the practice library (pre-Internet days, oh my!) held an exotic pets manual.
“It’s like this in a dog; how would I treat a cat?” is a daily dialogue, made more difficult by having to remember that not all species handle drugs in the same way.
Penicillin? Okay in cats, but fatal in guinea pigs.
Local anaesthesia? Fine in sheep; be cautious in goats.
Ibuprofen? No, no, no in cats, but yes, yes, yes as an anti-inflammatory in rodents.
So that’s what going on the other side of the consulting table, but what about the benefits of veterinary science for us humans?
In this age of reductionist research and the ascension of disciplinary endeavors, veterinary research stands apart because of its breadth and interdisciplinary orientation. …. Veterinary research serves as the interface of basic science and animal and human health that is critical to the advancement of our understanding of and response to impending risks and to the exploitation of disciplinary advances in the pursuit of One Medicine.
Furthermore, many notable scientific discoveries for human health have been made first in animals. Cross-species versatility makes for an interesting and open-minded research life too. Veterinary research is a great example of a comparative approach to science since this is a big part of the vet school undergraduate years. Rous sarcoma virus, the first viral cause of cancer, was discovered in 1911…in chickens. Bill Jarrett’s work in 1964 on feline leukemia virus (FeLV) at the University of Glasgow veterinary school in Scotland laid the groundwork for the isolation of HIV almost two decades later. Disease in animals can also act as a sentinel for its emergence in humans: West Nile virus caused deaths in birds only weeks before hitting the human population.
Clinical and comparative superheroes indeed; the importance of veterinary research for human society should be well recognized and supported.
Mammals are mammals are mammals. There are more similarities than there are differences between the species. When these similarities [in illness] arise, they convey important information.
— Dr. Larry Norton in Wild science: Breakthroughs in animal health care may hold treatments for humans (Bill Briggs, NBC News, November 2, 2013)
So, next time you hear your veterinarian muttering under their breath, “white feet, don’t treat” as they scan for wonder drug ivermectin on the shelves, or you see them reach past the Carprofen for your cat, just imagine how many different species are running around inside their head during consultations.
The CVMA-SBCV Chapter Fall Conference & Trade Show
November 5–6, 2016, in Vancouver, BC
from Amanda – Talk Science to Me http://ift.tt/2eeHBe8