Science’s most memorable events of 2014
I certainly found this story most fascinating –given my first declared major in college was pre-medicine (my second and final was psychology)! Science has always amazed me, and learning how to study our world for myself was so cool. For example, I remember selling Christmas cards when I was in elementary school, and one of the first gifts I rewarded myself was a science set –yippee yahooey, mixing up different chemical solutions was waaay fun. It came with a microscope too, and I was able to examine a strand of my hair or the ever-intriguing epithelial cells inside my cheek, which were sandwich between the glass slides.
One dozen scientists have selected the most incredible stories of this past year, and the first discussed was Antarctic sheets of ice falling into the ocean. Some are quick to credit global warming, and while that’s true, it’s not for the reasons that politicians are claiming. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but I believe that Lady Gaia is warming not detrimentally from ozone depletion but rather returning to Her original Garden of Eden temperatures of an easy and mildly perfect 75ºF (back story for another day).
The second most important scientific event of 2014 is considered obtaining proof that dogs recognize their owner’s voice. Now let’s be honest, people have “known” that for eons (as long as we’ve had dogs as our “best friend”), but now it’s simply been identified through a machine which measures brain activity (fMRI: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Here’s a list of the remaining most important discoveries of 2014:
3. The discovery of gravitational waves (or not); 4. Antibiotic resistance wins the £10m Longitude prize; 5. The launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory; 6. The octopus who sat on her eggs for four years; 7. Professor John O’Keefe wins the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine; 8. The Virgin Galactic crash; 9. Monica Grady’s reaction to the Philae landing; 10. Engravings on Trinil shell date 350,000 yrs older than engravings in Africa; 11. The Orion test flight returns to Earth; and 12. Solar panels approach 40% efficiency.
The 12 Most Important Moments in Science in 2014 by Tamsin Edwards, Sophie Scott, Jim Al-Khalili, Liz Bonnin, Helen Czerski, Athene Donald, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Mark Miodownik, Adam Rutherford, Alice Roberts, Andrea Sella. The Guardian.
How can our Tweets and Facebook dialogues reveal patterns within mental illness which ultimately might prove advantageous?
While I very much enjoyed the last article (the true scientist at-heart that I am), I appreciated this next one even more –moonlighting as a mental health counselor, of course! Unlike hard science, where everything is black and white and easily concretizable, for example, mixing blue & red ALWAYS makes purple, and 1 + 1 always = 2… soft science is much more blurry and messy. In other words, answers live in the grey area of life, where they sometimes work and sometimes don’t. For example, timeouts always work for little Joey, but Alexa never calms down when placed in a timeout.
In light of the revelation of NSA activities, I shutter to think how and why our Tweets and Facebook conversations are being researched (again, another story for another day…), but I’ve learned scientists are compiling data that people freely offer through their self-revealing when using social media. I definitely have mixed feelings: A bit tweaked out that people are gathering our private information, and yet seeing a great potential benefit of using said info that people willingly offer to the Internet. So I must genuinely ask, “What harm is being done when folks voluntarily give such info?” Answering honestly, “None.” Rationalizing with myself, “If it’s public knowledge, then why can’t researchers gain some important findings from such data?”
“This is like a microscope or a telescope, but it’s something new: A macroscope,” stated Nova Spivack, CEO of Bottlenose, whose company measures over 70 billion messages on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and search engines.(1) “It’s amazing that you can do that, literally measure billions of opinions; It’s a feedback loop that never existed, and it’s going to transform society,” Spivack said.
“By reviewing tweets from users who publicly mentioned their diagnosis and by looking for language cues linked to certain disorders, the researchers say, they have been able to quickly and inexpensively collect new data on post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder…. Mining public data [has] yielded fresh numbers on cases of these illnesses, allowing for analyses that were previously difficult, [nearly impossible,] or expensive to obtain. The scholars emphasize, however, that their findings do not disclose the names of people who publicly tweeted about their disorders.”(2)
Johns Hopkins computer scientist Glenn Coppersmith says, “mental health has touched each one of our lives in some way: A friend, a relative, a colleague, or one’s self. When we saw the opportunity to try to make a dent in understanding some of these problems, it wasn’t hard to convince others to help out.”(2)
Whiz kid teenager creates cancer-detecting device
Have I mentioned how much I love science …and used properly, it can change our world for the better? Well, I’m not slowing down anytime soon …so click your seatbelt and chinstrap your helmet ’cause here we go again!! Pancreatic cancer took a dear friend of then 13-year-old Maryland teen Jack Andraka, which in turn prompted him to research cancer –literally. Amazingly two years later, he invented a tool which detected three forms of cancer: Pancreatic, ovarian, and lung.
“Andraka’s preliminary results suggested that his sensor could be 90 percent accurate, 168 times faster, and 400 times more sensitive than current methods. The test costs three cents, takes five minutes to run, and –by detecting cancer at an early, treatable stage– could give patients a better chance of survival.” “Sirius-ly,” how amazing is this generation?!
For me, today’s news was most inspiring! How can you not be inspired by amazing scientific discoveries from the past year, the uncovering of helpful mental illness patterns through never before available means, and a young cancer-detecting genius? Looking forward to “seeing you” next time….
Please remember, beloveds, if your current situation is heavy and hard to handle, this too shall pass!
We Are All One