Hello fellow progressives, and welcome to the third installment of Science Sundays!
Each week we share our scientific knowledge, from all fields, in the hope of expanding science’s influence towards building a more rational, peaceful, just and technically literate world.
By Jove I Think She’s Got It
The big news in space exploration this week and going forward is NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter.
Launched almost five years ago, the Juno mission will start orbiting the gas giant Monday July 4th. Using a full array of instruments, it will be looking at how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, what the general material composition of Jupiter’s atmosphere is, and what the magnetosphere of Jupiter looks like. It will orbit Jupiter over 30 times.
Because Juno will be orbiting Jupiter much closer than any spacecraft has done before, there is some concern about radiation damage to the spacecraft. While the background radiation here on Earth is less than a rad, the radiation Juno will be experiencing is estimated to be 20 million rads.
The big news in medicine this week is the report from the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the promising results of trials of two different Zika virus vaccines.
As you all know by now, the Zika virus is transmitted by mosquito bites or through sexual intercourse, and can cause microcephaly and other neurodevelopmental disorders in children born to women infected with the Zika virus while pregnant. Additionally, some individuals infected with the Zika virus will manifest Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The first vaccine is a DNA vaccine containing genetic snippets from a Zika virus strain that circulated recently in Brazil. So far the vaccine (given to mice) has shown great promise in eliciting antibodies that kill the Zika virus.
The second vaccine, also showing great promise in mice trials, is a more traditional vaccine made from a purified, inactivated Zika virus that recently circulated in Puerto Rico.
Hopefully, human trials will start soon, but such trials typically take years to complete.
Shades of Doctor Moreau
This is not exactly news, but bioengineering of human tissue and organ parts is certainly a fascinating and fast-growing field in medicine.
Small scale versions of human organs, known as organoids, have been developed, including a minibrain, a miniheart, a minikidney, a minilung and a ministomach.
Albert I Hardly Knew You
Finally, as promised, a new science channel each week. This week I present Sixty Symbols, where the speaker (Prof. Mike Merrifield) talks about various aspects of special relativity, with some amusing animations employed.