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Glacier in Antarctica

Scientists Worried About Rapid Melting Of ‘Doomsday’ Glacier In Antarctica

Climate scientists have always regarded Thwaites glacier in Antarctica as a key factor in terms of climate change and global sea-level risings. The glacier itself is seen as one of the most vulnerable to be impacted by climate change, as its collapse would raise global sea levels by more than half a meter on its own. Its melting would also cause a chain reaction for other major bodies of water in Antarctica, potentially causing sea levels to rise by three meters!

Coastal cities across the globe would be severely impacted if this were to occur, and it’s one of the reasons the glacier has the nickname “Doomsday glacier.” This year, scientists noticed there was warm water near an integral part of the glacier that has never been there before. This warm water has already caused parts of the glacier to deteriorate.

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Thwaites glacier is 76,000 square miles, about the size of England. Ice has already melted from the glacier into the Amundsen Sea and caused 4% of global sea-levels to rise. As the world continues to warm, scientists are worried for the future of this glacier and its impact on the rest of the planet. Paul Cutler is a program director for Antarctic glaciology at America’s National Science Foundation, and he recently spoke with the media about the severity of this glacier melting.  

“The big question is how quickly it becomes unstable. It seems to be teetering at the edge. It is a keystone for the other glaciers around it in Antarctica if you remove it, other ice will start draining into the ocean.” 

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice, most of which remains out of the water and on the continent’s land. The average thickness of ice in Antarctica is 1.6 miles deep, but it can reach depths of up to three miles. 

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The current sea level on Earth is almost 8 inches above what it was before the industrial revolution. The main cause in this rise is an increase in global sea temperatures brought on by intense sun exposure. The sun exposure is brought on due to a depletion in the Earth’s ozone layer, which is meant to protect all of us from intense UV radiation. For nearly 2,000 years before the industrial revolution, global sea levels remained almost completely static. 

Burning fossil fuels has only increased as society has become more modernized, and that burning has only further depleted the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act as heat traps for the sun. These warmer temperatures obviously cause major ice sheets and glaciers to melt, as they’re not only experiencing a rise in sea temperatures, but air temperatures as well. 

The annual rate in which our global sea-levels rise has doubled since 1990. As time has gone on, the rate at which these glaciers melt has only become more unpredictable, making it difficult for scientists to understand how to better preserve them. However, this more recent melting of Thwaites was specifically brought on by a massive heat wave in the Arctic; which is on the other side of the planet. 

Both the Antarctic and Arctic regions should be our number one priority, as they’re the coldest locations in the world, however, they’re both warming at rates faster than the rest of the world as well. Global warming has already caused such massive natural destruction within the past year alone, it’s time that our world leaders understand we’re currently battling a whole other pandemic in terms of our planets temperatures.

Covid Research

Researchers Want To Use ‘Sports Bubbles’ For Covid-19 Research

Sports are slowly beginning to make their way back to our TV screens, and as they do, many professional leagues are making policies that will allow researchers and scientists to use large sports venues as research facilities for Covid-19. 

Part of these policies will also allow for players and other sizable groups that will be working in sports to be regularly monitored by doctors. This will not only ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in the resurgence of professional sports, but the information collected by the doctors can be used for finding a treatment for the coronavirus. 

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The argument about whether or not sports should be coming back is vast and still heavily debatable, especially considering the US is one of the only countries in the world still seeing massive spikes in cases. However, researchers believe that once sports leagues enter a pandemic isolation zone to play – such as the NBA’s plans to play at Disney World the whole season – doctors and researchers will more easily be able to understand the virus. 

Priya Sampathkumar is an epidemiologist who’s also working on a NBA specific antibody study. Back in April, MLB also participated in the first nationwide coronavirus antibody study. 

“The authors of the study realized they had a ready-made national network of medical providers — sports medicine physicians and orthopedists — who were scattered in a really broad number of markets and would be able to help conduct these tests. It was really, really clever.” 

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Closed off NBA facilities throughout the country are now being used as makeshift Covid-19 research laboratories or testing sights as well. NBA players specifically will also be tested everyday for Covid. Parts of these tests will implement new forms of finding out if an individual has the coronavirus or its antibodies, and the player results will give doctors a better understanding as to what type of test is easiest and most accurate. 

The goal, however, is obviously to keep the coronavirus out of all of these sports “bubbles” throughout the US where major league teams will be isolated while playing their seasons. It will be especially difficult in the beginning, as many athletes will need to be coming from out-of-state, making the risk of spreading much higher. 

If the virus does begin to spread within these isolation zones, doctors will be more equipped to trace the source and therefore what state/county/town that the initial infected individual was from so that the individuals in that area can also be aware. 

This is one of the biggest reasons that medical experts aren’t fully turning away from the idea of restarting sports. The safety of the individuals within these bubbles is of the utmost importance, but the data that will be collected and used will be just as substantial. 

This data is important for league members as well because they’ll be able to better manage the health and safety for all of its staff. Learning more about the virus will be beneficial for the rest of the world.

Apocalypse Movie Fans Are Better Equipped To Cope With The Covid-19 Pandemic

Researchers have found that individuals who are fans of apocalyptic movies are more resilient and prepared when it comes to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Vaccine Syringe

Dr. Fauci Worried Covid-19 Vaccine Won’t Lead To Herd Immunity In America

Dr. Anthony Fauci says that he would definitely settle for a Covid-19 vaccine that’s only 75% effective as a means of slowing down the spread of the virus, however, the fact that many Americans already claim that they won’t get a coronavirus vaccine makes it “unlikely” that the US will reach a level of collective immunity that would expel the virus from the country. 

“The best we’ve ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective. That would be wonderful if we get there. I don’t think we will. I would settle for a 70, 75% effective vaccine.”

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With government support currently three coronavirus vaccines are projected to be studied in large-scale clinical trials within the next three months throughout the world. In a recent media poll, one-third of Americans said they would not try to get vaccinated against Covid, even if the vaccine was cheap and widely distributed. 

The main concern right now isn’t how effective the vaccine itself is going to be, as we haven’t seen enough trial data yet, but instead the lack of herd immunity that will result if one-third of the country refuses to be vaccinated. Herd immunity is defined as when a sufficient number of individuals in a given population are immune to an infectious disease, making spread from person to person unlikely. Immunity isn’t necessarily equivalent to being vaccinated either, as we know, many individuals throughout the world are either asymptomatic or completely immune from the coronavirus. 

Fauci claimed that “there is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country — an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking.”

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The anti-vaccination movement is much larger than most realize and while certain states, such as New York, require individuals to be vaccinated if they’re in a public school setting, not enough enforcement is in place nationwide. Fauci went on to explain that they have an extensive program in the making that will be relatable to community members in an attempt to get them to consider vaccination once it’s available. The program, however, is in the preliminary stages. 

Fauci continued to state that every state would receive a different letter grade when asked if he could grade America’s response to the pandemic. “Some states are going to be A+, some A, and some are a C.” He didn’t name any specific states, however, he alluded that all the states where you see large gatherings of people who aren’t wearing masks were creating a recipe for disaster for themselves. 

Until the world sees a real vaccine, one of the number one ways to slow down the spread of the virus from an executive standpoint is contact tracing. Public health officials have been trying to contain certain outbreaks of Covid-19 by isolating infected people and extensively interviewing them about who they’ve had contact with while they were infectious. 

However, Fauci says the US is barely practicing contact tracing especially when compared to countries like China and Japan. He also claims that contact tracing is difficult because a lot of individuals who contract Covid-19 are asymptomatic, so they don’t even realize they’re sick. For now, he encourages everyone to continue to quarantine, wear a mask if you’re out in public and continue to socially distance.

Protective Face Mask

Scientists Offer Advice On What To Look For In A Face Mask

Face masks have become a mandatory addition to everyone’s wardrobe as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the overall scientific consensus is that face masks are the simplest way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing cloth face covering to protect yourself when in public. However, as the pandemic continues to grow and new information is released in terms of health and safety procedures, some are confused as to the best means of wearing a mask in public. So what do you need to know?

Unless you’re under the age of 2, have a medical condition, or are able to stand at least 6 feet away from other people, you should be wearing a mask at all times according to the guidelines released by the CDC and WHO. Respiratory droplets – tiny bits of spit and other materials that are expelled from your mouth – have been confirmed as the main means of transmitting Covid-19 from person-to-person.

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If you’re carrying the virus, it can attach itself easily to these droplets and thus easily spread throughout the air once expelled. A mask literally physically blocks those droplets from leaving the vicinity of your mouth. Obviously, one could still contract the virus through touch as well, but by covering your mouth, you’re reducing your risk substantially.

In the argument over disposable or reusable masks, you really can’t go wrong, but if you go the reusable route, make sure the material is thick enough to actually block any droplets from spreading. Disposable masks should only be worn once, which isn’t the best for the environment, however, many agree that the disposable surgical masks are much easier to breathe in when compared to a cloth mask; it’s really a matter of preference.

According to scientists who performed a study testing the best materials to make reusable masks out of, they found that it was less about the type of fabric, and more about the quality of it. Higher quality fabrics have a tighter weave and thicker thread, so they do a much better job at containing any droplets or germs. However, as mentioned cloth masks can tend to be less breathable when compared to the disposable ones.

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“A rule of thumb, hold the material up to a bright light. Look at the light coming through the fabric. If it outlines individual fibers and you can see the light through fabric, it’s probably not as effective. The less of that you can see, the better the filter,” said Dr. Scott Segal.

Researchers also found that two layers of masks are better than one, and three does a better job than two, in fact, in their specific guidelines the WHO recommends a minimum of three layers, so many mask manufacturers have begun implementing that rule into their production. Again, breath-ability is a factor so if you’re making the mask yourself, don’t go overboard with the layering to the point that you can barely breathe, and follow Segal’s rule of thumb in terms of light.

There are many types of masks as well on the market. The most effective ones must cover both your nose and mouth, and form a rather snug fit along the edges. Professional grade masks like the N95 respirator are the only guaranteed means of getting a mask with a proper seal along the edge, however, a perfect fit is not a requirement as long as your mouth and nose remain covered.
Regardless of what type of mask you own, the most important thing to remember is to always wear it when out in public. Continue to listen to the nation’s healthcare professionals and guidelines brought on by the CDC and WHO.

Vaccine

CEO Of Moderna ‘Confident’ That Covid-19 Vaccine Will Be Ready By 2021

The CEO of pharmaceutical company Moderna, Stephane Bancel, claims to have a new vaccine that has a 1-in-3 chance of getting FDA approval by 2021.

Research Studies COVID-19

Scientists Believe Dexamethasone Could Be A Breakthrough In Fighting Covid-19

A low-dose steroid treatment of the drug dexamethasone has proven to be a major breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19. Scientists and researchers in the United Kingdom have been tirelessly working on a coronavirus vaccine since March, and now, they’re claiming that this cheap and widely available drug could help save the lives of patients who are currently infected with the virus. 

Dexamethasone is a drug that is a part of the world’s biggest trial testing current Covid-19 treatments, so the research is extensive. So far, scientists have found that the drug can cut the risk of death due to the coronavirus by a third for patients who are on ventilators. For those who are on oxygen, it can cut the risk of death by a fifth. 

The researchers behind this specific trial have claimed that if dexamethasone was used to treat patients infected with the coronavirus when this pandemic initially began, 5,000 lives could have potentially been saved. 

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This breakthrough is especially beneficial for countries that are lacking medical supplies and other proper resources to combat this pandemic. The UK government currently claims to have 200,000 counts of the drug in its stockpite and the National Health Service will make them available to all patients currently battling Covid-19. 

“This is a genuine case to celebrate a remarkable British scientific achievement. We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, claims that this drug could save countless lives all around the world. About 19 out of 20 high-risk patients who have used dexamethasone as a part of their treatment have recovered from Covid-19 without being admitted to the hospital, and those who were admitted typically recovered with the help of oxygen. 

Dexamethasone was previously used as an anti-inflammatory for individuals suffering from asthma, arthritis, and some other skin-related conditions. Intense internal inflammation has been one of the most damaging symptoms of Covid-19, and the drug is proving to help stop some of the damage inflicted on the body’s immune system due to this inflammation. 

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The trial was led by Oxford University and about 2,000  hospital patients were given the drug while 4,000 other patients were given a placebo as the control group. Patients on ventilators saw their risk of death go from 40% down to 28%, while those on oxygen saw their risk of death go from 25% to 20%. 

“It’s a major breakthrough. The findings suggested one life could be saved for every eight patients on a ventilator and every 20-25 treated with oxygen. There is a clear, clear benefit. Also, the treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 ($5.63) per patient. So essentially it costs £35 ($39.43) to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available,” Lead researcher Professor Martin Landray said.

Professor Landray went on to say that at this point, hospital patients with Covid-19 should be given dexamethasone without hesitation. He also emphasized that this drug has proven to be relatively ineffective for patients with mild symptoms who don’t need help with their breathing, however, as long as they remain quarantined, they should be fine. 

Research for a vaccine is still underway, but in the meantime this drug treatment is going to be most patients’ best bet at recovery. Continue to socially distance, self-quarantine, and wear a mask whenever in a public setting. We’re all in this together until we find a real cure for this deadly virus. 

Coronavirus Virus

19 States Report Spikes In New Covid-19 Cases

Health experts and government officials have been fearful of a second wave of Covid-19 cases since the virus first entered America. Now, with 19 states reporting a spike in new cases, their fears are becoming a reality.

24 states are reporting a downward trend in new cases, and the remaining seven states have held steady with their case numbers. According to the constant live updates from Johns Hopkins University, more than 1.9 million Americans have been infected with the virus and more than 112,000 have died. 

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Arizona is one of the 19 states that’s enduring a second spike in new cases. At their initial peak Arizona’s intensive care unit beds were 78% in use, according to reports, and now about 76% are in use. In response Arizona’s Department of Health Services is calling for hospitals to “be judicious” with what elective surgeries they perform to keep as many beds open as possible. 

Bed capacity and medical resources in general have been top priority in America, as many healthcare facilities have been struggling to stay completely stocked up on all things needed for Covid-19. Health experts have already confirmed that a second-wave is going to happen based on the trends we’re seeing in these 19 states now, and the casual reopening of multiple states and metropolitans across the country. 

With no vaccine or solid drug treatment available, health experts have criticized the federal government for its lack of action in combating this virus from the moment it appeared in America. These new cases are likely a result of the multiple Memorial Day weekend outings that many citizens attended despite experts and government warnings against doing so. Public health experts are also urging everyone who’s been attending a protest within the past few weeks/in the future to stay diligent about wearing a mask and protecting yourself, and to also monitor yourself for symptoms two weeks after attending. 

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“Though disease experts at the FDA expect there will be multiple coronavirus vaccines in the future, the amount of people who will not take advantage of it puts herd immunity at risk. Remember that it is 30% or 40% of the population will not take this vaccine, even if the vaccine effectiveness is 70 or 80%. We will not be in a position to have herd immunity,” Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Centers for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that the road to medical intervention for Covid-19 will be a long one, as “providing billions of doses of potential vaccines to everyone around the world will take the work of researchers around the world.”

As of March over 200 Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials have been occurring. Johns Hopkins has claimed that many of the vaccine plans are lacking important scientific components, however, given the urgency of the pandemic, this is an instance in which “further research” isn’t fully required. Creating at least a solid drug treatment plan is also top priority. 

For now, the future of this pandemic is still unknown, however, regardless of your state’s restrictions, you should still be taking the coronavirus as seriously as you were a few months ago. In order to truly stop the spread it’s up to all of us joining together, staying indoors, and waiting for a vaccine to appear.

SpaceX

SpaceX Makes Historic Landing At The International Space Station

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have successfully entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a 19 hour long journey on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The two men docked at the ISS around 10 a.m this past Sunday morning after initially launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. 

The two are expected to remain docked for one to three months with a maximum time of 110 days. The Crew Dragon made initial contact with the docking port at the ISS early Sunday when the men did a “soft capture” of the capsule; which basically means initial contact. They then went on to do a “hard capture” that involved using twelve latches to create an air-locked seal between their crew cabin and the entrance to the space station itself. 

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They made their soft capture around 10 a.m on Sunday but weren’t actually able to enter the station until around 1:15 p.m. due to the lengthy “hard capturing” process. Fellow NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner greeted both Behnken and Hurley when they finally entered the station, as the three of them have been docked there since April. 

“I couldn’t be happier about the performance of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. We were able to sleep for a few hours, share meals and use the on board toilet during our journey. The Dragon was a slick vehicle, and we had good airflow, so we had an excellent, excellent evening,” Hurley said in a call to mission control located in Houston, Texas. 

While on their way to the ISS, both Behnken and Hurley gave a virtual tour of the new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft using cameras they brought with them. While the vehicle was en route, the two took viewers around the capsule where NASA later uploaded the video to their official YouTube page. In the video the two announced that they decided on their own name for the vehicle: Endeavour.

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“The astronauts picked that name for a few reasons, Hurley said on NASA and SpaceX’s webcast. On one hand, the name honors the years-long endeavor that was returning human spaceflight to the United States after the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. And it honors the longtime friendship that Hurley and Behnken have shared, and their histories with NASA: Both astronauts began their spaceflight careers with missions aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (That vehicle’s namesake was an 18th century ship commanded by British explorer James Cook — hence the British spelling of Endeavour,” (CNN reports)

The launching and docking of Endeavour is a major milestone for the spacecraft itself. SpaceX itself has been working on this goal since it was originally founded in 2002 so when the two officially made contact with the ISS, those down at mission control obviously had to celebrate. 

When NASA originally called upon SpaceX, a private company, to design vehicles for space travel to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, they received a lot of backlash. While NASA and SpaceX have worked together multiple times in the past, SpaceX was never given the responsibility of creating original designs, developments, and testing facilities for human-related space travel vehicles, so experts were worried. 

However, after this initial success, it’s likely that NASA and SpaceX will continue working with one another well into the future. In fact, the two recently announced that they’re ambitiously hoping to put people on the moon by 2024.

Ozone Layer

Research Team Discovers Evidence Of Mass Extinction Event From 359 Million Years Ago

Researchers at the University of Southampton recently published findings in the journal of Science Advances that revealed evidence of a mass extinction that took place on Earth nearly 360 million years ago. The extinction was a result of high levels of UV radiation that destroyed the planet’s forest ecosystems and killed thousands of species of fish as well. This influx in UV radiation was a result of one of Earth’s climate cycles that collapsed part of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer depletion was a direct response to the rapid warming of the planet brought on by the ending of an intense ice age. The researchers behind these findings were adamant about sharing this evidence, as Earth’s current climate status is showing parallels to what it was like 359 million years ago when this mass extinction took place. The team’s research consisted of collecting rock samples from the mountains in East Greenland. The area of land they were specifically collecting from used to be the location of a huge ancient lake that was “in the arid interior of the Old Red Sandstone Continent, [which] made up of Europe and North America.”

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“This lake was situated in the Earth’s southern hemisphere and would have been similar in nature to modern-day Lake Chad on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Other rocks were collected from the Andean Mountains above Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. These South American samples were from the southern continent of Gondwana, which was closer to the Devonian South Pole. They held clues as to what was happening at the edge of the melting Devonian ice sheet, allowing a comparison between the extinction event close to the pole and close to the equator,” according to media reports.

In a lab setting the researchers dissolved the rocks in hydrofluoric acid which, according to the research, released microscopic plant spores that looked like pollen. These spores had somehow managed to remain preserved for hundreds of millions of years, and upon further exploration, the team discovered these spores had strangely formed spines on their surface. The spores also had dark pigmented walls, which led the team to believe both abnormalities were a result of UV radiation damaging the DNA of the spores themselves. 

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The conclusion was now that during a time of rapid global warming millions of years ago, the ozone layer must have collapsed for a short period, which then resulted in the Earth and all its living inhabitants to be exposed to extremely harmful levels of UV radiation, and thus triggering a mass extinction on both land and in shallow waters. 

“During the extinction, plants selectively survived, but were enormously disrupted as the forest ecosystem collapsed. The dominant group of armored fish became extinct. These extinctions came at a key time for the evolution of our own ancestors, the tetrapods. These early tetrapods are fish that evolved to have limbs rather than fins, but still mostly lived in water. Their limbs possessed many fingers and toes. The extinction reset the direction of their evolution with the post-extinction survivors being terrestrial and with the number of fingers and toes reduced to five,” said Lead researcher Professor John Marshall, of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science. 

As previously mentioned, Professor Marshall’s main goal with releasing all of this newfound research is to warn humanity of how similar our planet’s current climate looks to how it did right before this mass extinction that killed thousands of species and redirected the way we evolved. The team plans on continuing their remote research in Greenland in hopes to further learn more about past climate emergencies, and how to better prepare for them today.