Aug
25
2006

California goes solar: photo from Wikipedia commons
California goes solar: photo from Wikipedia commons

California again leads the way

Almost every September my wife and I stay with some friends in California. Because their house has solar electricity and hot water we are told to not feel guilty about long, hot showers. Their electricity usage is also pollution free.

One million more solar panels

Californians are leading the way by supporting renewable energy. This week they passed a bill, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday, that calls for the installation of one million rooftop solar panels on homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings by 2018.

The solar systems would generate 3,000 megawatts of power and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 3 million tons, equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the state's highways and making California the third biggest solar producer after Japan and Germany.
The California Public Utilities Commission in January approved a $2.9 billion program to help pay for the solar program. The money will come from funds earmarked for solar energy and from gas and electric utility rates. Reuters

Aug
25
2006

Sad little pluto
Sad little pluto

The folks at the Minnesota Planatarium are planning a wake due to Pluto's loss of planatary status. Join them at Joe's Garage in Minneapolis on Thursday, August 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Join us for a wake in honor of our dearly departed planet Pluto. It was a good planet, and although it will have new life in the ranks of dwarf planets, we'll remember it how it was in its full planetary glory.

We'll also have a telescope on the roof to view the quarter moon. Parke may be persuaded to give a short Eulogy.

Informal and impromptu
Food and drink available for purchase.
Costumes not required but prize for best Pluto costume.
Toasts to Pluto encouraged.

While the new Minnesota Planetarium isn't a reality just yet, they do have a great gallery of 3D space images (anaglyphs) taken by NASA. Get your red-blue goggles out to see these.

Researchers suggest children who watch TV while receiving a shot suffer less pain from a hypodermic needle than children not watching TV.

Aug
24
2006

Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.Coutesy lissame
Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.
Coutesy lissame

One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.

Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?

Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's Anatomy
Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's AnatomyCourtesy Gray's Anatomy

I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.

A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.

So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.

In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.

The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?

Aug
24
2006

The International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. CNN(Science & Space)

Aug
23
2006

NASA announced the name of its new manned exploration craft – ‘Orion.’ Orion will take human space explorers to the moon and then hopefully to Mars. NASA aims to have Orion start its journey before 2014.

Aug
23
2006

Bubblegum: Courtesy of anva
Bubblegum: Courtesy of anva

Wouldn’t it be great if chewing gum could actually help your teeth? Well it may soon be possible.

The German company, BASF, has developed a chewing gum with helpful bacteria that can prevent tooth decay.

Dental cavities are caused by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans. When S. mutans attaches to our teeth, it converts sugars into harmful acids that eat away at our tooth enamel.

The friendly bacteria in the chewing gum, Lactobacillus anti-caries, causes the S. mutans bacteria to clump together and thus prevents them from sticking to the teeth.

Research of the effectiveness of this gum has shown that it is able to reduce the presence of S. mutans to one-fiftieth of its original level.

Dentists emphasize that the chewing gum should not be a substitution for brushing our teeth. L. anti-caries targets only one type of plaque causing bacteria. There are many types of bacteria that cause plaque. We should still brush our teeth, use fluorides, and reduce our sugar consumption to help fight tooth decay.

In addition to including the friendly bacteria in chewing gum, BASF is proposing to use L. anti-caries in other oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Dental benefits are not the only positive effects of Lactobacillus bacteria. A different stain of Lactobacillus has long been used in yogurt and is known to help with digestive problems. Scientists at BASF are also looking into using different strains of Lactobacillus to help eliminate body odor and help repair damaged skin.

The first Lactobacillus products will likely hit stores in 2007.