Some Like It Hot: A Look at Capsaiscin

If you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper— either because of a dare or by your own volition— you have no doubt come across the painful burning sensation that comes soon after. But what causes this pain? And why does it exist in the first place? Before we look at chemistry, we have to look at biology— specifically, evolution.
Capsaicin is found naturally in chili peppers, in varying quantities. To truly understand its purpose, we have to look at where it’s located. The amounts of capsaicin vary throughout the plant, but the highest concentrations are found in the placental tissues surrounding the seeds of the plant. This makes sense evolutionarily, as the seeds are the future generations of  these peppers. It makes sense that the plant would use whatever means are most effective to protect its progeny. Capsaicin, with its burning, itching, stinging side effects, acts as a perfect deterrent to possible predators looking for a tasty meal.
Now that we know why capsaicin exists - why does it burn? This is where the chemistry comes in. The burning, painful sensation attributed to capsaicin results from chemical interactions with sensory neurons. When introduced to the body, capsaicin binds to a specific receptor called the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) or, more simply, the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This receptor is a subtype of receptors that are present in peripheral sensory neurons. The vanilloid receptor 1 is usually reserved for detecting heat or physical abrasion. When heat is applied to the surface of the skin this TRPV1 ion channel opens, allowing cations (positively charged ions) into the cell. This inflow of cations activates the sensory neuron, which sends signals to the brain that there is a painful stimulus present. Capsaicin has a binding site on the receptor, and opens the cation channel just like if heat were applied. This results in a signal to be brain to alert you of a potential threat and produces a burning sensation where the capsaicin was introduced, but without an actual burn.
Interestingly, while the receptor works this way in most mammals, it is not activated by capsaicin in birds; therefore, birds are the largest distributors of capsaicin seeds in the natural environment.
This has just been a brief overview of some of the chemistry of capsaicin, but hopefully next time you bite into a jalapeno, you’ll take a moment to appreciate the science that’s occurring before you gulp down your milk!
References:
Pingle SC, et al. Capsaicin receptor: TRPV1 a promuscious TRP channel. Handbook of experimental pharmacology. 2007.(179):155-71.
Tewksbury JJ. et al. Ecology of a spice: Capsaicin in wild chilies mediates seed retention, dispersal and germination. Ecology. 2008. (89):107-117.

Submitted by thatoneguywithoutamustache
Edited by Ashlee R.

Some Like It Hot: A Look at Capsaiscin

If you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper— either because of a dare or by your own volition— you have no doubt come across the painful burning sensation that comes soon after. But what causes this pain? And why does it exist in the first place? Before we look at chemistry, we have to look at biology— specifically, evolution.

Capsaicin is found naturally in chili peppers, in varying quantities. To truly understand its purpose, we have to look at where it’s located. The amounts of capsaicin vary throughout the plant, but the highest concentrations are found in the placental tissues surrounding the seeds of the plant. This makes sense evolutionarily, as the seeds are the future generations of  these peppers. It makes sense that the plant would use whatever means are most effective to protect its progeny. Capsaicin, with its burning, itching, stinging side effects, acts as a perfect deterrent to possible predators looking for a tasty meal.

Now that we know why capsaicin exists - why does it burn? This is where the chemistry comes in. The burning, painful sensation attributed to capsaicin results from chemical interactions with sensory neurons. When introduced to the body, capsaicin binds to a specific receptor called the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) or, more simply, the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This receptor is a subtype of receptors that are present in peripheral sensory neurons. The vanilloid receptor 1 is usually reserved for detecting heat or physical abrasion. When heat is applied to the surface of the skin this TRPV1 ion channel opens, allowing cations (positively charged ions) into the cell. This inflow of cations activates the sensory neuron, which sends signals to the brain that there is a painful stimulus present. Capsaicin has a binding site on the receptor, and opens the cation channel just like if heat were applied. This results in a signal to be brain to alert you of a potential threat and produces a burning sensation where the capsaicin was introduced, but without an actual burn.

Interestingly, while the receptor works this way in most mammals, it is not activated by capsaicin in birds; therefore, birds are the largest distributors of capsaicin seeds in the natural environment.

This has just been a brief overview of some of the chemistry of capsaicin, but hopefully next time you bite into a jalapeno, you’ll take a moment to appreciate the science that’s occurring before you gulp down your milk!

References:

Pingle SC, et al. Capsaicin receptor: TRPV1 a promuscious TRP channel. Handbook of experimental pharmacology. 2007.(179):155-71.

Tewksbury JJ. et al. Ecology of a spice: Capsaicin in wild chilies mediates seed retention, dispersal and germination. Ecology. 2008. (89):107-117.

Submitted by 

Edited by Ashlee R.

The 150th Anniversary of the Periodic Table

oupacademic:

image

Over the years, many scientists contributed to the creation of our contemporary periodic table of elements. On 20 August 1864, John Reina Newlands published one such contribution — a way to organize elements with similar chemical properties as you move from left to right across the periodic table. These days, periodic tables present groups of similar elements in vertical columns, but that’s just a cosmetic difference. In honor of Newlands’ discovery, we have compiled a list of books on the periodic table.

Image: Chemistry by macaroni1945. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

Submitted by srikard

Edited by Jessica F.

Question:
As far as teaching science goes, I would put evolution high up on the list. Only because its the most misunderstood science theory, while also being the most attempted to be understood. Time and time again people will say to me “So you really think we came from monkeys?” which tells me they are not aware of mutation at all. In those times I think, “Man, I’d really like to show them an animation of the process.” Can we find an way to present evolution that will be easy to swallow?
Asked by 

Answer:

Evolution is one of the most misunderstood topics in science, and yet it is also one of the most controversial, subject to much debate. Luckily, there are lots of resources to help explain.

Below is a great infographic from sixpenceee that concisely explains that humans did not come from apes. Rather, both evolved from a common ancestor.

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As an additional resource, this video (although it’s a bit long) provides a good summary of evolution as a process.

Congratulations on your scientific curiosity and thank you for your question! 

Answered by Claire R., Expert Leader

Edited by: Dylan S.

Digging for Data on Root Microbiomes 

The following is the abstract of the bioinformatic research I conducted in the summer of 2014. It was my first undergraduate research experience.
Analysis of Fungal and Root Microbiomes of Plant Communities at Wild Basin: Abstract
The root microbiome is a dynamic community of microorganisms residing within and near plant roots that complete processes critical to plant health and growth. Recent studies have shown that the diversity of microorganisms associated with the root microbiome is prodigious and not yet fully understood. This research was carried out at St. Edward’s University’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center. The grass C. planostachys (also known as Cedar Sedge), which resides within Wild Basin and was endemic to four of the five sampling sites used for this project, was the subject of this research attempt to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive population diversity within the microbiome and the constituents of that population. This attempt was made through a quantitative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) -based approach to verify the presence of fungi and bacteria within fractionations  of the root microbiome. The isolated DNA used for PCR will be sequenced via high-throughput sequencing to estimate the abundance and presence of distinct taxonomic groups.

Notes from the Editor: A pause here for some background information. St. Edward’s University is located in Austin, Texas. The plant being studied, Carex planostachys, is also known by the name Cedar Sedge and is common in the southwestern United States.


This type of research is sometimes known as exploratory research. Exploratory research is done when scientists know a lot of the basics about a particular area and they would simply like to know more about that particular area. They do not want to manipulate it for a specific purpose or gain any particular product at the end; they are just gathering information.

In this case, the scientists in the study were aware of the presence of a microbiome on C. planostachys roots, but they were not sure what exact form that microbiome would take. In order to answer this question, they gathered the plants’ roots and the soil around the plants’ roots  and divided them into fractionations, or different groups. In this particular study, the scientists divided the fractionations into the soil around the plant, the rhizosphere (the outer environment on the root’s surface), and the endosphere (the environment within the root).


The scientists then ran PCR, a process used in biology to amplify and detect quantities of specific DNA sequences, on these samples. In this case the scientists were looking for common bacterial, fungal, and archaea DNA sequences, which would tell them who the “residents” of the root microbiome were.  All right, abstract, bring it home for us!

 Bacterial DNA was successfully amplified from all fractionations, while fungal DNA was amplified only from the endosphere.
While DNA for both bacteria and fungi was isolated, the presence of fungi in all fractionations has yet to be shown. Because of time constraints, the isolated DNA has not yet been sequenced. As of right now, bacteria  has been found in the entirety of the root microbiome of C. planostachys and fungi has been found in one section of it. Future plans include continuing this research and refining methodology in order to verify the presence of fungi in other fractionations. Hopefully the future DNA sequencing results will shed light on the microbiome’s mechanisms and that data will have information that could be used to develop applications relevant to crop production methods.

Sequencing the individual DNA of the microbiome tells the researchers exactly what types of bacteria and fungi live down there, which in turn will tell them more about what the environment near the root is like. For example, if the microbiome is found to have a large amount of a particular acid-loving bacteria in it, that might suggest that a healthy root microbiome environment might be naturally acidic.


Keep an eye on this quickly growing area of research, as scientists dig for exciting new information.


Submitted by quasiyolo
Edited by Peggy K.
Zoom Info
Digging for Data on Root Microbiomes 

The following is the abstract of the bioinformatic research I conducted in the summer of 2014. It was my first undergraduate research experience.
Analysis of Fungal and Root Microbiomes of Plant Communities at Wild Basin: Abstract
The root microbiome is a dynamic community of microorganisms residing within and near plant roots that complete processes critical to plant health and growth. Recent studies have shown that the diversity of microorganisms associated with the root microbiome is prodigious and not yet fully understood. This research was carried out at St. Edward’s University’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center. The grass C. planostachys (also known as Cedar Sedge), which resides within Wild Basin and was endemic to four of the five sampling sites used for this project, was the subject of this research attempt to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive population diversity within the microbiome and the constituents of that population. This attempt was made through a quantitative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) -based approach to verify the presence of fungi and bacteria within fractionations  of the root microbiome. The isolated DNA used for PCR will be sequenced via high-throughput sequencing to estimate the abundance and presence of distinct taxonomic groups.

Notes from the Editor: A pause here for some background information. St. Edward’s University is located in Austin, Texas. The plant being studied, Carex planostachys, is also known by the name Cedar Sedge and is common in the southwestern United States.


This type of research is sometimes known as exploratory research. Exploratory research is done when scientists know a lot of the basics about a particular area and they would simply like to know more about that particular area. They do not want to manipulate it for a specific purpose or gain any particular product at the end; they are just gathering information.

In this case, the scientists in the study were aware of the presence of a microbiome on C. planostachys roots, but they were not sure what exact form that microbiome would take. In order to answer this question, they gathered the plants’ roots and the soil around the plants’ roots  and divided them into fractionations, or different groups. In this particular study, the scientists divided the fractionations into the soil around the plant, the rhizosphere (the outer environment on the root’s surface), and the endosphere (the environment within the root).


The scientists then ran PCR, a process used in biology to amplify and detect quantities of specific DNA sequences, on these samples. In this case the scientists were looking for common bacterial, fungal, and archaea DNA sequences, which would tell them who the “residents” of the root microbiome were.  All right, abstract, bring it home for us!

 Bacterial DNA was successfully amplified from all fractionations, while fungal DNA was amplified only from the endosphere.
While DNA for both bacteria and fungi was isolated, the presence of fungi in all fractionations has yet to be shown. Because of time constraints, the isolated DNA has not yet been sequenced. As of right now, bacteria  has been found in the entirety of the root microbiome of C. planostachys and fungi has been found in one section of it. Future plans include continuing this research and refining methodology in order to verify the presence of fungi in other fractionations. Hopefully the future DNA sequencing results will shed light on the microbiome’s mechanisms and that data will have information that could be used to develop applications relevant to crop production methods.

Sequencing the individual DNA of the microbiome tells the researchers exactly what types of bacteria and fungi live down there, which in turn will tell them more about what the environment near the root is like. For example, if the microbiome is found to have a large amount of a particular acid-loving bacteria in it, that might suggest that a healthy root microbiome environment might be naturally acidic.


Keep an eye on this quickly growing area of research, as scientists dig for exciting new information.


Submitted by quasiyolo
Edited by Peggy K.
Zoom Info

Digging for Data on Root Microbiomes 

The following is the abstract of the bioinformatic research I conducted in the summer of 2014. It was my first undergraduate research experience.

Analysis of Fungal and Root Microbiomes of Plant Communities at Wild Basin: Abstract

The root microbiome is a dynamic community of microorganisms residing within and near plant roots that complete processes critical to plant health and growth. Recent studies have shown that the diversity of microorganisms associated with the root microbiome is prodigious and not yet fully understood. This research was carried out at St. Edward’s University’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center. The grass C. planostachys (also known as Cedar Sedge), which resides within Wild Basin and was endemic to four of the five sampling sites used for this project, was the subject of this research attempt to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive population diversity within the microbiome and the constituents of that population. This attempt was made through a quantitative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) -based approach to verify the presence of fungi and bacteria within fractionations  of the root microbiome. The isolated DNA used for PCR will be sequenced via high-throughput sequencing to estimate the abundance and presence of distinct taxonomic groups.

Notes from the Editor: A pause here for some background information. St. Edward’s University is located in Austin, Texas. The plant being studied, Carex planostachys, is also known by the name Cedar Sedge and is common in the southwestern United States.
This type of research is sometimes known as exploratory research. Exploratory research is done when scientists know a lot of the basics about a particular area and they would simply like to know more about that particular area. They do not want to manipulate it for a specific purpose or gain any particular product at the end; they are just gathering information.
In this case, the scientists in the study were aware of the presence of a microbiome on C. planostachys roots, but they were not sure what exact form that microbiome would take. In order to answer this question, they gathered the plants’ roots and the soil around the plants’ roots  and divided them into fractionations, or different groups. In this particular study, the scientists divided the fractionations into the soil around the plant, the rhizosphere (the outer environment on the root’s surface), and the endosphere (the environment within the root).
The scientists then ran PCR, a process used in biology to amplify and detect quantities of specific DNA sequences, on these samples. In this case the scientists were looking for common bacterial, fungal, and archaea DNA sequences, which would tell them who the “residents” of the root microbiome were.  All right, abstract, bring it home for us!

 Bacterial DNA was successfully amplified from all fractionations, while fungal DNA was amplified only from the endosphere.

While DNA for both bacteria and fungi was isolated, the presence of fungi in all fractionations has yet to be shown. Because of time constraints, the isolated DNA has not yet been sequenced. As of right now, bacteria  has been found in the entirety of the root microbiome of C. planostachys and fungi has been found in one section of it. Future plans include continuing this research and refining methodology in order to verify the presence of fungi in other fractionations. Hopefully the future DNA sequencing results will shed light on the microbiome’s mechanisms and that data will have information that could be used to develop applications relevant to crop production methods.

Sequencing the individual DNA of the microbiome tells the researchers exactly what types of bacteria and fungi live down there, which in turn will tell them more about what the environment near the root is like. For example, if the microbiome is found to have a large amount of a particular acid-loving bacteria in it, that might suggest that a healthy root microbiome environment might be naturally acidic.
Keep an eye on this quickly growing area of research, as scientists dig for exciting new information.

Submitted by quasiyolo

Edited by Peggy K.

thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info
thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 
Condensing all of our additional commentary!
From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.
Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 
I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.
We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.
Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 
Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.
Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.
Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.
Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom
Edited by Jessica F.
Zoom Info

thescienceoffandom:

Here are some basics on herd immunity, and here is some more technical research if you’re interested in the details! 

Condensing all of our additional commentary!

From palavra-valise

Herd immunity is even more important than that, actually. Those three people who are vaccinated when nobody else is could still get the disease (doesn’t necessarily work with protection against zombies themselves so I’m not going with the theme here) because with more unvaccinated people, there are more opportunities for bacteria or viruses to mutate, so the strain included in the vaccine would be too different from the circulating strain for it to offer much, if any, protection. That’s why each and every one of us has a responsibility to keep up our vaccines, for the good of EVERYONE in our society.

Basically, the unvaccinated people in the mostly vaccinated population are safer than the fully vaccinated people in the mostly unvaccinated population. That’s why, if anyone says “Why do you care? You/your kid are/is fully vaccinated,” you should punch that person in the face and then give them a 20-minute lecture about herd immunity and not being a self-absorbed twit and about our responsibility to society unless we choose to live on, I don’t know, an island floating in space.

This is a really good point! 

I should also point out that vaccination is still important even for diseases that don’t show up frequently in the human population any more (or even just the local population), because often those diseases still exist in reservoir species that can transmit the disease, or in human reservoirs in other parts of the globe - which is how we’ve gotten the recent measles outbreaks in unvaccinated kids.

We should also point out (as other people have on this post - you guys are awesome!) that the vaccine-autism link has been repeatedly debunked by sound studies and that the original paper it was based on has been disavowed and was deeply, both scientifically and ethically, unsound in the first place.

Also, madeofpatterns brings up a good point - there’s variation in people’s responses to the flu vaccine in particular, according to the CDC, (just based on age, general health, etc., not the quality of the vaccine) which makes it even more important for a lot of people to get vaccinated, to build up that buffer to protect people who aren’t immune. 

Given that a lot of people are curious about vaccine safety and the vaccine testing process (and some of you have mentioned this - thanks to randomguy319 !) we’ve got a bunch more information on the vaccine development process and their safety.

Here is a really good overview piece that explains the years of development that go in before a vaccine hits the market, and here and here are more from the CDC with lots of good links.

Both the CDC and the FDA have a TON of information on vaccine safety.

Bottom line: Every vaccine on the market or that will come onto the market goes through years and years of testing before even being tested in humans, and then goes through multiple rounds of testing in humans before being approved by the FDA and continually checked for product quality and for any instance of side effects. Therefore, vaccines are really very safe. 

Submitted by squireofgeekdom

Edited by Jessica F.

Data Gathering for Dogs in the Digital Age

Four years ago Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute created Dogslife, as part of a project to investigate the environmental and genetic factors which affect the health of Labrador Retrievers in the UK. If successful, the project could shed light on the environmental (diet, exercise, viruses, bacteria, etc.) roots of particular diseases. Dogslife requires that participating owners provide monthly updates about their dog’s diet, exercise, flea/tick treatment, illness, and (for some) even fecal samples. Today, the ever expanding project gathers the photos, lifestyle, and veterinary information of over 4,500 dogs!
Since many disease origins have genetic – and not environmental – influences, the Roslin Institute launched The Labradome Project in conjunction with Dogslife. Once completed, this will be the first fully sequenced Labrador Retriever genome ever created. Researchers hope to be able to compare the basic Labrador genome to that of labs known to have typical breed diseases (e.g. hip dysplasia) in order to pin down the underlying gene(s).
Although Labs were chosen because they are the most common pedigree breed in the UK, Professor David Hume and his team at Roslin believe that “the lessons learned from it will go far beyond this breed or indeed for dogs in general.” Researchers could identify what genes are related to purebreed diseases, what role certain lifestyle/environmental factors play in activating those genes, and even identifying carriers of genetic diseases. Breeders could then use this kind of information to molecularly select (i.e. selection based on genotype, not necessarily phenotype) which dogs to breed.
This means that, one day, we may be able to breed out some of the horrible genetic diseases our domestics have picked up with generations upon generations of inbreeding and artificial selection! Imagine large breeds that aren’t prone to hip dysplasia, Bernese mountain dogs that aren’t likely to contract cancer, Bulldogs without… well… maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. But the point still stands: these kinds of longitudinal studies regarding genetics and environment could easily help improve the genetic fitness of our domestic species.
Article Reference: McKie, Robin. “Labs in the lab: how scientists aim to root out disease in dogs.” The Guardian, 30 August 2014. Accessed 2 September 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/aug/31/labrador-retriever-genome-dogslife-data-disease>. 
Journal Reference:Clements, DN, Handel, IG, Rose, E, Querry, D, Pugh, CA, Ollier, WER, Morgan, KL, Kennedy, LJ, Sampson, J, Summers, KM & Bronsvoort, M 2013, ‘Dogslife: A web-based longitudinal study of Labrador Retriever health in the UK’ BMC Veterinary Research, vol 9, no. January 2013, 13, pp. 1-15. 10.1186/1746-6148-9-13
Photo Source:"Twinklelab13" by AsobakaBosa. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.

Submitted by Shelly C., Discoverer
Edited by Mark S.

Data Gathering for Dogs in the Digital Age

Four years ago Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute created Dogslife, as part of a project to investigate the environmental and genetic factors which affect the health of Labrador Retrievers in the UK. If successful, the project could shed light on the environmental (diet, exercise, viruses, bacteria, etc.) roots of particular diseases. Dogslife requires that participating owners provide monthly updates about their dog’s diet, exercise, flea/tick treatment, illness, and (for some) even fecal samples. Today, the ever expanding project gathers the photos, lifestyle, and veterinary information of over 4,500 dogs!

Since many disease origins have genetic – and not environmental – influences, the Roslin Institute launched The Labradome Project in conjunction with Dogslife. Once completed, this will be the first fully sequenced Labrador Retriever genome ever created. Researchers hope to be able to compare the basic Labrador genome to that of labs known to have typical breed diseases (e.g. hip dysplasia) in order to pin down the underlying gene(s).

Although Labs were chosen because they are the most common pedigree breed in the UK, Professor David Hume and his team at Roslin believe that “the lessons learned from it will go far beyond this breed or indeed for dogs in general.” Researchers could identify what genes are related to purebreed diseases, what role certain lifestyle/environmental factors play in activating those genes, and even identifying carriers of genetic diseases. Breeders could then use this kind of information to molecularly select (i.e. selection based on genotype, not necessarily phenotype) which dogs to breed.

This means that, one day, we may be able to breed out some of the horrible genetic diseases our domestics have picked up with generations upon generations of inbreeding and artificial selection! Imagine large breeds that aren’t prone to hip dysplasia, Bernese mountain dogs that aren’t likely to contract cancer, Bulldogs without… well… maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. But the point still stands: these kinds of longitudinal studies regarding genetics and environment could easily help improve the genetic fitness of our domestic species.

Article Reference:
McKie, Robin. “Labs in the lab: how scientists aim to root out disease in dogs.” The Guardian, 30 August 2014. Accessed 2 September 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/aug/31/labrador-retriever-genome-dogslife-data-disease>.

Journal Reference:
Clements, DN, Handel, IG, Rose, E, Querry, D, Pugh, CA, Ollier, WER, Morgan, KL, Kennedy, LJ, Sampson, J, Summers, KM & Bronsvoort, M 2013, ‘Dogslife: A web-based longitudinal study of Labrador Retriever health in the UK’ BMC Veterinary Research, vol 9, no. January 2013, 13, pp. 1-15.
10.1186/1746-6148-9-13

Photo Source:
"Twinklelab13" by AsobakaBosa. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.

Submitted by Shelly C., Discoverer

Edited by Mark S.

Question:

Why do materials look darker when they absorb water?

Asked by 

Answer:

The way we see things is dependent on how light travels from the object back to our eye, and the color that we see is the wavelength of light that bounces back from the object.

A layer of water helps light penetrate the surface of the material more deeply than if the material were dry. When the light is in the surface of the material, it “gets lost” a little bit, and when it comes back up, it might be in a slightly different direction. This is called subsurface reflection, which scatters the light. Basically, when an object gets wet, the new combination of, say, fabric with water will absorb a different wavelength of light, producing what we see as a slightly different color or contrast.

To read more about subsurface reflection, click here.

Answered by Vinnie C., Expert Leader

Edited by Carrie K.


Let’s talk about Ebola!



The Ebola virus, which was first isolated during a 1976 epidemic in Zaire and Sudan, is an irregularly-shaped, threadlike virus with its genetic information in the form of RNA. It is thought that its natural reservoir are fruit bats, who can carry Ebola without getting any symptoms. We also know that monkeys can get infected with Ebola and pass it on to humans. How the monkeys get it is not known—they might munch on fruit that has been partially eaten by the bats—and aside from a few cases where people have butchered monkeys for food, the origin of most Ebola outbreaks tends to be murky.




After a 2 to 21 day incubation period in the body, the symptoms of an Ebola infection tend to come on suddenly, starting with a fever and headache and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a nasty rash. In advanced cases, bleeding from multiple orifices occurs, followed by multi-organ dysfunction and death. The fatality rate is anywhere from 50-90%, with the Zaire strain being the most fatal. The strain currently going around is 97% identical to the Zaire strain.
A vaccine does not exist, and there is no specific treatment for Ebola. Patients are only contagious after the symptoms start and then begin shedding the virus in some of their bodily fluids, so preventative measures—like those full-body suits health care workers wear—aim to keep people out of contact with those fluids and anything the fluids might have landed on. The virus doesn’t seem to survive in saliva very well and doesn’t show up in urine, which is good news for anyone worried about foodborne or waterborne transmission. Most exposures are probably through blood, and the virus might also appear in semen and breastmilk.




Source: phil.cdc.gov

Submitted by herd-effect
Edited by Jamie V. 
Let’s talk about Ebola!

The Ebola virus, which was first isolated during a 1976 epidemic in Zaire and Sudan, is an irregularly-shaped, threadlike virus with its genetic information in the form of RNA. It is thought that its natural reservoir are fruit bats, who can carry Ebola without getting any symptoms. We also know that monkeys can get infected with Ebola and pass it on to humans. How the monkeys get it is not known—they might munch on fruit that has been partially eaten by the bats—and aside from a few cases where people have butchered monkeys for food, the origin of most Ebola outbreaks tends to be murky.

After a 2 to 21 day incubation period in the body, the symptoms of an Ebola infection tend to come on suddenly, starting with a fever and headache and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a nasty rash. In advanced cases, bleeding from multiple orifices occurs, followed by multi-organ dysfunction and death. The fatality rate is anywhere from 50-90%, with the Zaire strain being the most fatal. The strain currently going around is 97% identical to the Zaire strain.

A vaccine does not exist, and there is no specific treatment for Ebola. Patients are only contagious after the symptoms start and then begin shedding the virus in some of their bodily fluids, so preventative measures—like those full-body suits health care workers wear—aim to keep people out of contact with those fluids and anything the fluids might have landed on. The virus doesn’t seem to survive in saliva very well and doesn’t show up in urine, which is good news for anyone worried about foodborne or waterborne transmission. Most exposures are probably through blood, and the virus might also appear in semen and breastmilk.

Source: phil.cdc.gov

Submitted by herd-effect

Edited by Jamie V.