26 Nov

Brigham and Women's Hospital recently concluded a 5.3 year-long trial -- known as VITAL, which stands for VITamin D and OmegA TriaL (proving that any acronym is possible, with enough words) -- to ascertain the potential health benefits of Vitamin D as well as omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil.

While speculation has abounded for years as to those benefits, some of which have been hinted at here and there, no randomized trial of a racially diverse population has been conducted to nail down conclusions. Until now.

The verdict: Omega-3 fish oil cuts down on the rate of heart attacks, but does not impact one's risk for cancer or stroke; vitamin D doesn't affect cancer, stroke or heart attack in a major way, but does appear to decrease cancer deaths that began one or two years after study participants started treatment. Heart attack risk among African American participants taking omega-3s was reduced significantly -- by 77 per cent.

24 Nov

At first, the concept seems counterintuitive: If we're going to colonize Mars, which has no known life or settlements, why not do it on a grand enough scale to justify the enormous effort to get there?

On the other hand, though, living in a foreign and demanding environment will likely require every ounce of energy and resources available, so why not be efficient about the process? Besides, who wants to colonize Mars only to wind up living in the equivalent of a stadium-sized commune?

After all, as an article from Open Architecture argues, the concept of simple living is as old as Thoreau. The article goes on to ask, "Today, as we live and get lost in a world of consumption and environmental crises, what are our essential needs?"

22 Nov

A currently recognized benchmark for how the universe started and grew indicates that the day-to-day matter people deal with comprises approximately five per cent of the density of the universe. Dark matter, says the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (Lambda-CDM) model, makes up 27 per cent, and dark energy 68 per cent.

That last element refers to an as-yet-unproven force that is believed to be what keeps the universe expanding. Now, a new study asks whether the force exists.

Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, which was published in 1915, states that the universe was created by a Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago. However, the equations used to create Einstein's theory are complex to the point that when models work off simplified iterations of them, minor discrepancies can quickly morph into gigantic differences.

20 Nov

Between 2011 and 2014, more than 2,000 search and rescue missions were launched each year as the National Parks Service sought to rescue lost hikers. While many were saved, hundreds died, some due to not being found in time.

Technology may be the answer to that. Finding a lost individual in thousands of miles of tree-covered terrain can be a challenge, especially for the limitations that come with helicopter and ground searches. But through the use of drones, MIT researchers believe lost hikers can easily be spotted so that rescuers can help them. The drones don’t even require GPS ­– they navigate relying on onboard computation and wireless communication.

18 Nov

Every minute, approximately one million plastic bottles are purchased across the globe, with only 23 percent of bottles in the U.S. making their way to the recycle bin. All of that waste pollutes waterways and harms ocean life. Although consumers have been urged to reduce, reuse, and recycle, bottled water waste is still an ongoing issue.

In recent years, scientists have turned their attention to trying to find a way to convert discarded plastic water bottles into useful resources. The most recent of those studies was conducted by scientists in Singapore, who say they’ve found a way to convert plastic bottles into aerogels, which are diverse enough to be used in a variety of ways. Those ways include thermal insulation and absorption.

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