Support for GBH is provided by:
Paris AlstonMay 18, 2022 12:35 PM
Q+A: Should I use an expired at-home COVID test? What if I leave one in my hot car?Past its expiration date, a COVID test is not as effective and shouldn't be used, says Northeastern's Jared Auclair.
Jon HamiltonMay 16, 2022 08:58 AM
A substance found in young spinal fluid helps old mice rememberA team at Stanford University has demonstrated a new approach to reversing memory loss — in mice.
Ashley WestermanMay 16, 2022 04:26 AM
Did you see the Super Flower Blood Moon last night? It was stunningA total lunar eclipse that produced a deep red blood moon made its way across the night sky Sunday night into Monday morning, giving stargazers a dramatic, multi-part show.
Joe HernandezMay 9, 2022 01:10 PM
Here's how to watch the total lunar eclipse on May 15Step outside Sunday night and you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the total lunar eclipse.
Patrick Jackson, University of Virginia | The ConversationMay 2, 2022 12:04 PM
Paxlovid Q&A: your questions about the coronavirus treatment pill answeredThe Biden administration announced plans on April 26, 2022, to increase the availability of the COVID-19 drug Paxlovid, vowing to get more of the treatment pills into the hands of Americans. An oral antiviral, Paxlovid has proved successful at reducing the chances of hospitalization among COVID-19 sufferers, but has suffered from a slow rollout to pharmacies across the U.S. Patrick Jackson, an infectious diseases physician and scientist at the University of Virginia, has helped care for hundreds of COVID-19 patients and assisted in Paxlovid clinical trials. The Conversation asked him to explain what the drug does and what impact greater availability may have in the fight against the coronavirus. What is Paxlovid and how does it work? Paxlovid is a made up of two protease inhibitors, including one used in treating HIV as a booster medicine. Protease inhibitors are synthetic drugs that block enzymes that viruses need to replicate. The combination in Paxlovid basically prevents the coronavirus from completing its life cycle. If left uninterrupted, SARS-Cov-2 would normally create the proteins it needs by making a polyprotein, or long strings of amino acids. Then protease, a viral enzyme, activates the polyprotein strings by cutting them into smaller parts. Paxlovid blocks the protease from doing this, thereby preventing the virus from becoming active. How much of a game-changer could it be in fighting COVID-19? It’s kind of limited. It could be beneficial for those at high risk of severe disease and possibly death, such as people who are older or who have hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease or who are immunocompromised. And that’s the population that we’re really the most worried about when it comes to COVID-19. But the more medically complicated a person is – by which I mean the more health conditions they have and medications they take – the more likely it is that Paxlovid will interact with one of their drugs. That means that one drug could alter or interfere with how another drug works, which can be dangerous. Some of the really important Paxlovid interactions are with anti-rejection medications for people who have transplants. A lot of blood thinners have interactions with it that can be very serious. Medications that treat heart rhythm abnormalities can be a major issue if patients on those medications take Paxlovid. And there’s a whole range of other things that it just doesn’t mix well with in the body. Some who could most benefit from Paxlovid are also at highest risk for drug interaction with Paxlovid. That makes it somewhat less useful. And Paxlovid was studied only in unvaccinated patients. So it’s not clear how well it will work in a vaccinated population – that is, we don’t know what additional benefit it gives on top of vaccination. I think it would work, but we don’t know how much. And I do wonder how much of a game-changer this is when we can just vaccinate more people and probably get more benefit on a population level. Is Paxlovid available to everyone? It is a prescription drug, so you have to talk to your doctor. You have to have symptoms of COVID-19 and test positive for the virus – not necessarily with a PCR test; it can be with a home test. But you have to actually have a diagnosis. And this drug has an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which has more restrictions than simply having full FDA approval. Pharmacies are responsible for making sure that the prescribed use is appropriate for this medication. So a lot of pharmacies will require some information from doctors who prescribe it – things like documentation of symptoms. So depending on the pharmacy, Paxlovid can be a little bit more complicated to get. The No. 1 issue is probably going to be the hesitancy of physicians to prescribe it. I think part of that comes down to a lack of awareness, and part is the result of the complexity of making sure that you’re using it appropriately and not hurting your patient through the drug interactions. I will certainly prescribe it for my patients when appropriate. But I have to go through their whole list of medications and check for drug interactions and double-check myself with another resource. Why has there been a problem in delivering the drug to pharmacies? Initially, I think the manufacturer and distributors were kind of trying to spread it around. So doctors and patients had to figure out which pharmacies had the drug and get to them early to secure Paxlovid. But pharmacies would run out even though they might have been listed on a website as having received a supply. But that is becoming less of a concern, now that there is more drug supply. What has the White House said it will do to speed things along? The government is purchasing more supplies of the drug and distributing it into more pharmacies – that has helped to a certain extent. And the Biden administration has made some noises about trying to make the drug more readily available at test-to-treat sites and clinics – something that to date has been challenging. [Over 150,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.] Patrick Jackson, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases, University of Virginia This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Christina Larson | Associated PressMay 2, 2022 11:45 AM
Your dog's personality may have little to do with its breedWASHINGTON (AP) — Research confirms what dog lovers know — every pup is truly an individual.
Eddie King, University of South Carolina | The ConversationApril 27, 2022 11:30 AM
Simply elegant, Morse Code marks 175+ years of useEddie King, University of South Carolina The first message sent by Morse code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on Friday, May 24, 1844 – 175 years ago. It signaled the first time in human history that complex thoughts could be communicated at long distances almost instantaneously. Until then, people had to have face-to-face conversations; send coded messages through drums, smoke signals and semaphore systems; or read printed words. Thanks to Samuel F.B. Morse, communication changed rapidly, and has been changing ever faster since. He invented the electric telegraph in 1832. It took six more years for him to standardize a code for communicating over telegraph wires. In 1843, Congress gave him US$30,000 to string wires between the nation’s capital and nearby Baltimore. When the line was completed, he conducted a public demonstration of long-distance communication. Morse wasn’t the only one working to develop a means of communicating over the telegraph, but his is the one that has survived. The wires, magnets and keys used in the initial demonstration have given way to smartphones’ on-screen keyboards, but Morse code has remained fundamentally the same, and is still – perhaps surprisingly – relevant in the 21st century. Although I have learned, and relearned, it many times as a Boy Scout, an amateur radio operator and a pilot, I continue to admire it and strive to master it. Easy sending Morse’s key insight in constructing the code was considering how frequently each letter is used in English. The most commonly used letters have shorter symbols: “E,” which appears most often, is signified by a single “dot.” By contrast, “Z,” the least used letter in English, was signified by the much longer and more complex “dot-dot-dot (pause) dot.” In 1865, the International Telecommunications Union changed the code to account for different character frequencies in other languages. There have been other tweaks since, but “E” is still “dot,” though “Z” is now “dash-dash-dot-dot.” The reference to letter frequency makes for extremely efficient communications: Simple words with common letters can be transmitted very quickly. Longer words can still be sent, but they take more time. Going wireless The communications system that Morse code was designed for – analogue connections over metal wires that carried a lot of interference and needed a clear on-off type signal to be heard – has evolved significantly. The first big change came just a few decades after Morse’s demonstration. In the late 19th century, Guglielmo Marconi invented radio-telegraph equipment, which could send Morse code over radio waves, rather than wires. The shipping industry loved this new way to communicate with ships at sea, either from ship to ship or to shore-based stations. By 1910, U.S. law required many passenger ships in U.S. waters to carry wireless sets for sending and receiving messages. After the Titanic sank in 1912, an international agreement required some ships to assign a person to listen for radio distress signals at all times. That same agreement designated “SOS” – “dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot” – as the international distress signal, not as an abbreviation for anything but because it was a simple pattern that was easy to remember and transmit. The Coast Guard discontinued monitoring in 1995. The requirement that ships monitor for distress signals was removed in 1999, though the U.S. Navy still teaches at least some sailors to read, send and receive Morse code. Aviators also use Morse code to identify automated navigational aids. These are radio beacons that help pilots follow routes, traveling from one transmitter to the next on aeronautical charts. They transmit their identifiers – such as “BAL” for Baltimore – in Morse code. Pilots often learn to recognize familiar-sounding patterns of beacons in areas they fly frequently. There is a thriving community of amateur radio operators who treasure Morse code, too. Among amateur radio operators, Morse code is a cherished tradition tracing back to the earliest days of radio. Some of them may have begun in the Boy Scouts, which has made learning Morse variably optional or required over the years. The Federal Communications Commission used to require all licensed amateur radio operators to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code, but that ended in 2007. The FCC does still issue commercial licenses that require Morse proficiency, but no jobs require it anymore. Blinking Morse Because its signals are so simple – on or off, long or short – Morse code can also be used by flashing lights. Many navies around the world use blinker lights to communicate from ship to ship when they don’t want to use radios or when radio equipment breaks down. The U.S. Navy is actually testing a system that would let a user type words and convert it to blinker light. A receiver would read the flashes and convert it back to text. Skills learned in the military helped an injured man communicate with his wife across a rocky beach using only his flashlight in 2017. Other Morse messages Perhaps the most notable modern use of Morse code was by Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In 1966, about one year into a nearly eight-year imprisonment, Denton was forced by his North Vietnamese captors to participate in a video interview about his treatment. While the camera focused on his face, he blinked the Morse code symbols for “torture,” confirming for the first time U.S. fears about the treatment of service members held captive in North Vietnam. Blinking Morse code is slow, but has also helped people with medical conditions that prevent them from speaking or communicating in other ways. A number of devices – including iPhones and Android smartphones – can be set up to accept Morse code input from people with limited motor skills. There are still many ways people can learn Morse code, and practice using it, even online. In emergency situations, it can be the only mode of communications that will get through. Beyond that, there is an art to Morse code, a rhythmic, musical fluidity to the sound. Sending and receiving it can have a soothing or meditative feeling, too, as the person focuses on the flow of individual characters, words and sentences. Overall, sometimes the simplest tool is all that’s needed to accomplish the task. Eddie King, Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of South Carolina This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Jon HamiltonApril 26, 2022 05:01 AM
Brain scans may reveal a lot about mental illness, but not until studies get biggerMRI scans have allowed researchers to peer inside the human brain. And the technology is great at revealing damage from a stroke, or areas that light up when we see a face.
Braidee Foote, University of Tennessee | The ConversationApril 11, 2022 09:47 AM
Why do cats' eyes glow in the dark?Cats and many other animals, including most dogs, can reflect light from their eyes. That’s why cats’ eyes will usually shine brightly in photos taken in a dimly lit room or glow when illuminated in the dark by a flashlight or a car’s headlights. Species whose eyes glow have evolved to see better in low light because they either forage or need to look out for predators throughout the night, or they do most of their hunting at dawn and dusk. In fact, domesticated cats can see in conditions that are only 16% as bright as what people require. Cats accomplish this because their pupils – the openings that appear black in the middle of their eyes that widen and narrow in response to light conditions – are special. Pupils operate like windows, with bigger ones letting more light into the eye. And a cat’s pupils can become up to 50% larger than human pupils in dim light. They also have a higher number of a specific type of light-sensing cell in the back of their eyes than we do. These cells, called rods, catch low-level light. The tapetum lucidum In addition to having large pupils and lots of rods, cats have something people don’t: a tapetum lucidum, a Latin medical term that translates to “bright or shining tapestry.” The tapetum lucidum is also known as “eyeshine.” It’s located in the back of the eye behind the retina – a thin layer of tissue that receives light, converts the light to an electrical signal and sends this signal to the brain to interpret the image. A cat’s tapetum lucidum is made up of cells with crystals that, like a mirror, reflect light back to the retina. This gives the retina a second chance to absorb more light. The feline tapetum lucidum is special because its reflective compound is riboflavin, a type of vitamin B. Riboflavin has unique properties that amplify light to a specific wavelength that cats can see well, which greatly increases the sensitivity of the retina to low light. In cats, the tapetum most often glows yellow-green or yellow-orange, but the color varies, just like their irises – the colorful part of their eye, which can be green, yellow, blue or golden. Variation in tapetum color is not unique to cats and can be found in lots of species. Other animals’ eyes glow too Many other animals that need to see at night have a tapetum lucidum. That includes predators and prey alike, everything from wild foxes to farmed sheep and goats. The tapetum lucidum is also useful to fish, dolphins and other aquatic animals, because it helps them see better in murky, dark water. In land animals, the tapetum is found in the top half of the eye behind the retina, because they need to see what is on the ground best. But in aquatic animals the tapetum takes up most of the eye, because they need to see all around them in the dark. Like cats, the lemur, a small primate, and its close relative, the bush baby – also known as a “night monkey” – also have a superreflective tapetum made with riboflavin. Even though a lot of animals have eyeshine, some small domesticated dogs lack this trait. Most animals with blue eyes and white or light-colored coats have also lost this trait. So don’t be alarmed if your dog’s or cat’s eyes don’t glow. The list of other species without a tapetum lucidum includes pigs, birds, reptiles and most rodents and primates – including humans. Is there a downside? Unfortunately, animals with a tapetum lucidum sacrifice some visual acuity for their ability to see in dim light. That’s because all that light bouncing around as it reflects off the tapetum can make what they see a little fuzzier. So, a cat needs to be seven times closer to an object to see it as sharply as a person would in a brightly lit place. But don’t worry, I’m sure your cat would rather see clearly at night than read a book. Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live. And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best. Braidee Foote, Clinical Assistant Professor of Veterinary Ophthalmology, University of Tennessee This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
John Daley - Colorado Public RadioApril 6, 2022 05:43 AM
Colorado is moving toward statewide coverage of wastewater surveillanceAfter you take care of business and push the handle on your toilet, it's out of sight, out of mind, right?
Dustin JonesApril 6, 2022 03:05 AM
Here's why most of us love the smell of vanilla and peaches and not sweaty feetResearchers from Sweden and the United Kingdom teamed up to sniff out the answer to a question practically every person has pondered at one time or another: what is the best smell out there?
Joe HernandezMarch 22, 2022 10:42 AM
There are more than 5,000 confirmed planets beyond our solar system, NASA saysIn a milestone for astronomy – and possibly the search for extraterrestrial life – NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed there are now 5,000 known planets beyond our solar system.