Sep
08
2006

Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy  Wikipedia
Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy Wikipedia

Have you ever been sunburned? Did you wear sunscreen? A recent study published in New Scientist might change your mind on how frequently an individual should reapply sunscreen.

Researchers at the University of California Riverside stated, “if you apply sunscreen anything less than once every two hours, you might be better off not using any in the first place.”

Kerry Hanson and colleagues exposed human skin samples grown in a lab to UV radiation. The samples were covered with three common UV filters found in many sunscreens (benzophenone-3, octocrylene and octylmethoxycinnamate). Findings suggested the protective compounds sunk into the skin resulting in its protective capability being greatly reduced.

Researchers also found the skin samples tested contained more reactive oxygen species (ROS) when compared to skin exposed to UV without sunscreen application. ROS are free radicals that damage skin cells and increase the odds of skin cancer. At low levels, ROS are able to assist in cell signaling processes. However, at higher levels ROS damage cellular macromolecules and could lead to apoptosis (programmed cell death).

For now the researchers advise to use sunscreens and reapply them often. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Active individuals are advised to reapply even more frequently due to sweat washing away sunscreen.

Sep
07
2006

Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke.   licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0
Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke. licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0

Want to make a difference?

Did you know that you can insist that the amount of electricity you use be produced without generating carbon dioxide emissions or other forms of pollution (mercury, sulfer). Windsource electricity is produced without air emissions, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, both considered to contribute to greenhouse gases. Wind-generated electricity also uses no water and therefore requires no water treatment during production. I am doing this by joining the Windsource program.

Xcel Energy will be held accountable for using Windsource funds appropriately: it must file annual reports with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, accounting for program revenues and expenses and wind generation and sales. In addition, all wind facilities supplying the Windsource program will be certified by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Sierraclub

What does it cost?

I have agreed to pay $2 per 100 kWh extra on my electric bill. This month I used 304 kWh so I was billed an extra $6.08. Since my electricity is pollution free I was rebated the Fuel Cost Adjustment that I otherwise would have paid ($2.76). So I paid an extra $3.32 last month know that I am helping rather than hurting our future environment. When fuel cost rise enough the rebate can become greater than what you pay for Windsource. You can sign up for Windsource here or call 1-800-895-4999 anytime.

I love Earth & Sky radio's skywatching center. It always features tonight's sky chart and weather, plus skywatching tips and any news. Find out when the moon will rise, what phase of the moon we're in, and where visible planets will be in the sky and when you should look. Plus, it's packed with links to other resources, like interviews with scientists and web planetariums. And you can blog! Check it out...

Tonight's full moon is the nearest of 2006. It's 30,000 miles closer to us than it was back in February, when it was furthest away. For those of us in Saint Paul, forecasters say tonight will be fair to partly cloudy, so step outside and take a look!

Zoo Atlanta is home to a new giant baby panda. This is the fifth giant baby panda born in the U.S.

I'm not advocating the practice, of course, but if you MUST know, the experts at Scientific American explain why inhaling helium makes your voice sound strange.

Want to see a pink katydid (Amblycorypha carinata) seen in Michigan (Lake Erie Park).

Sep
04
2006

The Pandemic: Photo Courtesy of Malingering
The Pandemic: Photo Courtesy of Malingering

No, its not bird flu, but there is a pandemic rapidly spreading through the world and contributing to a variety of diseases.

What is it?

Obesity.

"This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world,” Professor Paul Zimmet declared at the opening speech of the International Congress on Obesity. He also said, "it's as big a threat as global warming and bird flu.”

Obesity puts people at a higher risk for getting diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer.

How bad is this pandemic?

There are about 6.5 billion people in the world. There are one billion overweight people in the world. So that means that 15 percent of the world population is affected by or will potentially be affected by the diseases related to being overweight. That’s a lot. Of the one billion overweight people, about 300 million are diagnosed as obese. But that is still a significant percentage of the world population (about five percent).

Interestingly enough, there are actually more overweight people in the world than undernourished. At least one billion people are overweight, whereas about 600 million people are undernourished.

Those statistics were for the whole world. But in certain countries, particularly Australia, England and the United States, the number of overweight people is much higher. In Australia, 25 percent of children, 50 percent of adult women, and 67 percent of men are overweight. The exact statistics for the U.S. were not given at the Australian International Congress on Obesity, but they were mentioned to be even higher than Australia’s percentages.

Not only is obesity a health problem, but it is an economic problem. Especially in the countries of Australia, England and the U.S., where billions of dollars are spent each year on treating health problems directly connected to being overweight. In fact, in the U.S., the states with the highest obesity levels also have the highest poverty rates.

How can we stop it?

According to the Trust for America's Health advocacy group, at least $5.6 billion could be saved when it comes to treating heart disease if just one-tenth of Americans began a regular walking program.

It seems like it would be pretty easy to stop this pandemic if we quit being so lazy.

Sep
04
2006

Albino or not?: Is this an ablino squirrel or just a white variety of a regular squirrel. Check out the eyes to find out.
Albino or not?: Is this an ablino squirrel or just a white variety of a regular squirrel. Check out the eyes to find out.
Have I been working too hard lately, or was that a white squirrel I just saw?

The past couple weeks I’ve seen more white squirrels than I’ve ever see before and I was all excited that I was finding rare albino versions of the animal. After poking around on the Internet, however, I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to this than meets my eyes.

Thanks to information I found on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, just because an animal is white (when it normally isn’t that color) doesn’t mean that it’s an albino. Conversely, an albino animal doesn’t have to be totally white, either.

The answers can all be found in the animal’s genes. Animals that have strong white coloration lack the genetics to produce the pigment melanin.

An albino member of a species inherits genes that interrupt the making of melanin. But other members of the same species may have other factors that block melanin production, making the animal look all white. The key difference can be found in the eyes.

An albino will have pink or light blue eyes, shades that are very uncommon to the animal. A white, non-albino will have eyes that are usual color of its species, usually black. From what I’ve seen lately, the white squirrels I’ve been seeing have black eyes. The estimated rate of albinism in squirrels is estimated at one in 100,000.

Of course, there are some other all white mammals. They’re called leucistic. Polar bears are leucistic year round, while snowshoe hares have a leucistic phase in the white, giving them good cover in the winter snows.

Getting back to the white squirrels, there are a number of towns across North America that celebrate their white furry critter. For instance, in Olney, Illinois, protects and fosters their growth. They’ve had laws on the books to protect the white rodents since 1902 and had a population that grew to 1,000 at one time. Today, there are about 200. Olney, along with towns in North Carolina, California, Texas and Ontario, use the white squirrels as tourist attractions.

The book is still out on if albinism is a detriment to survival. On first thought, being all-white would be a huge disadvantage to being spotted by a predator, you might think. But through more study naturalists have come to believe predators may not recognize a white-version of their prey as food. In studying albino birds, researchers have found that the white-feathered creatures have a hard time finding a mate -- another reason why the albino genes become so rare.

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin died earlier today after being stung in the heart by a stingray barb.