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Wine may not just be for unwinding after a hard day of work on Earth. French researchers suggest red wine may reduce the effects of microgravity on astronauts in space. Microgravity is also known as weightlessness or zero gravity. It is a state of free fall, just like the feeling you get as you drop on a roller coaster.

When experienced over an extended period of time, microgravity can have some scary consequences. Bone deterioration, muscle loss, weakened immune system, dehydration, and shortness of breath are all common side effects of weightlessness on astronauts. Human bones grow in a state of gravity and our immune system builds up to ward off infections we are exposed to on Earth. Once humans are taken out of that state of gravity and familiar environment for an extended period of time, our bodies can react negatively to the change. In space, many astronauts experience nausea, headaches, sweating, and of energy from Space Adaption Syndrome. It usually lasts a few days, but their immune system is weakened.

Astronauts go through extensive training to prepare for these effects. But according to recent research, drinking red wine could reduce the risks associated with zero gravity. As stated in an article from DiscoveryNews.com, “Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that prevents blood clots, lowers "bad" cholesterol levels, and just helps protect your blood vessels in general. And now it seems as if resveratrol can also prevent bone density loss and muscle atrophy.” By studying rats in a simulated microgravity environment, the French researchers were able to see that those rats that didn’t receive resveratrol showed a loss of bone and muscle density, as well as signs of pre-diabetes from insulin resistance.

So what’s the catch? Why aren’t astronauts popping bottles of vintage in space? It turns out the rats had to consume quite a bit of resveratrol to show resistance to microgravity. It would take more than one or two glasses of wine for humans to do so. NASA certainly doesn’t want our astronauts intoxicated in space, so more research will need to be done. For now, the astronauts aboard Atlantis can look forward to a nice glass of wine when they come back to earth.

red wine

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El Nino and La Nina are the two most powerful weather phenomena on the planet and are known to alter the climate across more than half the planet! El Nino is the warming of water in the Pacific Ocean, determined by a comparison of average water temperatures over several years. If the ocean between the coasts of South America-Peru, Ecuador, Columbia-and the middle of the ocean toward the Date Line is warmer by 2-10 degrees F, we know that an El Nino is here. La Nina, officially called ENSO, is the cooling of water in the Pacific Ocean. El Nino and La Nina may alternate between every other year and every three years, so that the time from one El Nino to the next tends to be every three to seven years.

The tremendous phenomena of El Nino, known for its warming effect on the water in the Pacific Ocean is likely caused by underwater volcanic activity. El Nino weather can include rain and flooding along the Pacific coast, tornadoes and thunderstorms in the southern U.S., and fewer than normal hurricanes in the Atlantic. The warm waters of El Nino are also known to disrupt the food chain of fish, birds and sea mammals. During an El Nino, an increased dryness can occur in areas typically saturated with rainfall between November and March in the western Pacific over Indonesia and northern Australia. On the flip side, other areas such as Peru and Ecuador see an increase in rainfall. In fact, the El Nino was discovered in Peru by fishermen who noticed that every three to seven years, there was an increase in rainfall.


Satellite Image of El Nino

La Nina happens about half as often as El Nino. During a La Nina, winter temperatures in the U.S. are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest. La Nina, known for its cooling effect on the water in the Pacific Ocean, can include weather like snow and rain on the west coast, unusually cold weather in Alaska, unusually warm weather in the rest of the U.S., drought in the southwest, and a higher than normal number of hurricanes in the Atlantic.


Satellite Image of La Nina

The reason there are fewer hurricanes during El Nino, despite warmer waters, can be explained by the jet stream, or a long, narrow, wandering current of high speed winds blowing from a generally westerly direction several miles above the Earth’s surface. El Nino tends to suppress the formation of hurricanes by steering the subtropical jet stream into the hurricane’s path and effectively cutting off the tops of the hurricanes with its strong winds, preventing them from growing any bigger. During a La Nina, on the other hand, the jet stream works in the advantage of a forming hurricane, allowing them to grow with ease and great intensity.


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A rare zebra-donkey cross, known as a "zonkey" or "donkra", has made its first appearance at a Chinese zoo since its birth on Sunday. The foal, which has stripy legs and pale stripes down its brown body, had a difficult birth at Xiamen Haicang Zoo. Staff had to turn the rare hybrid upside down to prevent it from choking. The donkra weighed 30kg and was nearly a meter tall at birth. Zoo staff said the female zebra mated naturally with the donkey after the pair were left together in the same enclosure.

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Nothing describes mother natures’ persistence better than the way Barbara Kingsolver puts it in her popular novel, Poisonwood Bible, “this forest eats itself and forever lives.” The fierce forces of nature can be intense and enduringly unpredictable. A dust storm is no different.

Dust storms are not just desert phenomena. They can occur in any dry area where loose dirt is exposed to the elements and can easily be picked up. Heavier grains of sand generally fall back down to the ground after a few hours, but smaller particles can stay in the air for weeks at a time and can be blown thousands of miles.

With the recent wildfire activity out west, there are a lot of small smoke and dust particles already collected in the air, drifting and swirling with the wind currents. If the winds become strong enough, these particles form a wall-like structure and can suddenly loom over hundreds of miles and rise above 10,000 feet.

Usually these storms last only a few minutes, but that is long enough to hinder visibility on the highway, hinder air traffic and threaten the health of those with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

It is estimated that Australia spends an average of $20 million a year on medical bills because of asthma and other respiratory diseases exacerbated by the fierce dust storms.

During the 1960s there were eight dust storms that caused some serious damage; 13 more in the 1970s; 14 in the 80s and more than 20 in the 1990s. Although some storms are not as severe as others, even a mild dust storm is not a pleasant experience to walk through. It is recommended that you seek shelter when you see the wall of dust forming.

This week, a dust storm descended on Phoenix, Arizona, delaying flights and significantly reducing visibility.  Many longtime residents say it was the biggest they had ever seen.

This storm is only the first hint of the upcoming monsoon season, which typically starts in mid-June and lasts until the end of September. Below is a link to a video of the wall of dust that hit Phoenix on Tuesday, July 5.

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Scientists have discovered a way to take the temperature of dinosaurs. But how you ask? After all, they have been extinct for millions of years. As it turns out dinosaur teeth are good for more than just the act of chewing. Researchers were able to measure the dinosaurs’ temperatures because body temperature makes a difference in the amount of different types of carbon and oxygen that collect in the tooth enamel.

What is surprising is that the temperature of dinosaurs turns out to be almost the same as ours! They found a long-necked Brachiosaurus had a temperature of about 100.8 degrees F and the smaller Camarasaurus had a temperature of about 98.3 degrees F. People average around 98.6 degrees F. So, wouldn’t that mean that dinosaurs are warm blooded like us? Not necessarily.

When dinosaurs were first discovered, the theory was that they were lethargic and cold-blooded, but recent evidence suggests they may be more likely to be warm-blooded, which would allow them to be more active, like the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movies.

Although the debate still remains whether or not dinosaurs were warm blooded or cold blooded, lead researcher Robert A. Eagle of the California Institute of Technology suggests, “our analysis really allows us to rule out that they could have been cold [blooded], like crocodiles, for example.” He also adds, “this doesn’t necessarily mean these large dinosaurs had high metabolism like mammals and birds…they could have been ‘gigantotherms’ and stay warm because they were so large.” Large body masses are good at keeping temperatures constant.

According to Roger Seymour of the University of Adelaide, Australia, the findings “confirm that dinosaurs were not sluggish, cold-blooded animals. However, the debate about dinosaur metabolic rate will go on, no doubt, because it can never be measured directly and paleoscientists will often seek evidence to support a particular view and ignore contrary evidence.” The verdict remains to be seen.

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This week held big news for the future of the International Space Station. A new Canadian, Russian and UK collaboration mixes the live stream concept of Google Earth and video playback feature of YouTube to create UrtheCast.com (pronounced “Earth Cast”). With two HD cameras set on the Russian module of the ISS, site users will be virtual spaceship captains, as they search, watch, rewind, fast forward, and zoom in and out of live streams of Earth.

From their own computers and mobile devices, UrtheCast users can clearly see man-made objects and people, and also track the ISS to see when it’ll fly over their homes. At a frame rate of 3.25 frames per second and the ability to zoom-in to 1.1 meters, the cameras are extremely precise in location and time. As if that weren’t stellar enough, UrtheCast can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter, downloaded as a Smartphone App, and third party developers can take video for their own applications.

Here's a video from the company:

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Although the wildfires in Arizona have been almost completely contained at the moment, the Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico rages on because of the red flag weather conditions (high temperature, high wind and low humidity.) As of June 27, 2011, 8:00 a.m., New Mexico time, the wildfire is approximately 1 mile southwest of the boundary of Los Alamos National Laboratory, famed nuclear research facility. Because of a similar incident that occurred 11 years ago, the Lab is prepared and has already accounted for all radioactive materials and has secured the site.

Currently, firefighters are using fires to fight fires. The hope is that if firefighters use prescribed burns to eliminate fuels in the path of the fire. Then the wildfire will have nothing left to feed on by the time it reaches the points where the prescribed fires were set and eliminated. For up to date information on the New Mexico fires visit this website.


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