Wed, 08/23/2017 - 8:49pm

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

In babies, crucial neural connections happen before age three

Though we weren’t aware of it, our brain was growing explosively in the first few years of our lives. From birth to age three, babies gain more than a million neural connections every second. This crucial period of brain formation will affect how a person learns, communicates and behaves for the rest of their lives. 

The brain is made up of neurons, specialized cells that send messages to the rest of the body. Every new experience and memory creates connections between neurons, or synapses. These connections enable basic brain functions. 

Southwestern CC teams with NASA for balloon study

It’s going to start getting dark in Sylva, NC, just after noon on August 21, 2017. 

That’s because Sylva lies directly in the path of a once-in-a-generation natural phenomenon that will blanket the area in daytime darkness. A total solar eclipse will track across the contiguous (lower 48) United States for the first time since 1979. The last time Jackson County fell in the path of what scientists call “totality” was in the year 1506; the next total solar eclipse won’t cast a shadow on Jackson County until 2153. 

These lifestyle choices could help prevent Alzheimer's

It's a joke at times: People tend to become forgetful as they get older. 

But there is nothing funny about Alzheimer’s disease, an age-related brain condition that gradually destroys a person’s memory and thinking skills. It eventually prevents a person from being able to do simple tasks. Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly, and the patient’s mental decline usually occurs in three classified stages: an early, preclinical stage with no symptoms, a middle stage with mild cognitive impairment and a final stage of Alzhimer’s dementia. 

National Hurricane Center Debuts New Look for Cone of Uncertainty

You know you’ve seen it. A hurricane is approaching and the National Hurricane Center issues a forecast cone in their report to indicate the possible path and impact area of the tropical cyclone. 

Maybe you have wondered about this “cone of uncertainty.” 

It turns out a lot of people have wondered about what exactly the cone means. The problem is that the public’s understanding of the its meaning is usually wrong. So forecasters are trying to improve the tool. 

But first, just what is the cone? 

Losing weight isn't about having a fast metabolism

Yes, I’m writing this blog because I am trying to lose some weight. It's not easy, as you have probably heard many people complain. And it’s likely that you have also heard people place the blame for this difficulty on a slow metabolism. I’m not exactly sure what that might mean, but, hey, the excuse made sense. That is, until I asked the researchers at Metabolon. 

Bottom line: I lost my excuse. 

Spotting a galaxy, and other discoveries that were total accidents

Astrophysicist Patrick Treuthardt wasn’t looking for a rare galaxy. But while gazing at a cluster of galaxies, he happened to notice a small, unobtrusive speck. The speck turned out to be PGC 10000714, an elliptical galaxy surrounded by two rings of stars. It’s one of the rarest types of galaxies in the universe and Treuthardt found it by chance. 

A lot of major scientific discoveries can happen by accident, failure or just plain dumb luck. 

3D Printed Organs aren’t just for People

Dr. Anthony Atala says the promise behind regenerative medicine is that it harnesses the body’s natural healing powers to actually cure, rather than just treat, a disease. 

There are several areas of study and treatment: injectable cell therapies to promote healing; replacement tissues and organs produced in the lab; and the use of bio-compatible materials that promote tissue regeneration from within the body. 

And it turns out this groundbreaking medicine isn’t limited to humans. 

Superbugs are on the Rise, and the Future of Antibiotics is at Stake

Ouch. I scratched myself shaving this morning. 

It stung a little. Just to be safe I washed it off and then put a dab of antibiotic ointment on it. No problem. 

But the question being asked more and more is: for how long will the antibiotic method continue to work? 

The sad fact is we may be entering what scientists are calling the post-antibiotic era. If this is the case, that scratch I happened to get while shaving this morning could turn out to be fatal. It’s all thanks to superbugs—more formally known as drug-resistant bacteria.  

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