Saturday, January 7, 2012

Science Saturday 2.1: Perihelion, Appendix Appeal, Citizen Science, & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

At 1am GMT on Thursday this week (or 8pm EST on Wednesday), the Earth reached perihelion, the orbital distance closest to the sun.  Aphelion (the farthest distance) occurs in July.  In addition to contributing to seasonal changes, one slight (not visible to the naked eye) measurable result of this half-year movement is that the Sun changes 3.4% in size.

The mutualist-appendix hypothesis, which is the idea that the appendix serves as a reservoir for native fauna, or beneficial bacteria, that could help prevent or fight off serious gut infections.  A recent study showed that individuals who had their appendix removed were four times more likely to get a recurring bacterial infection.  Further studies need to be conducted to fully support this hypothesis, but this is definitely a breakthrough in understanding the "useless" organ.

Ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut?  Want to spend 5 whole minutes at zero gravity? For just  $200,000 you can be one of the 430 travelers to visit space aboard the new Virgin Galactic commercial space vehicle!

In the very first SciSat post, I mentioned Foldit, a video game designed for everyday people/gamers to contribute to the scientific discovery of protein folding.  Another such game aimed at citizen science contribution is called Phylo, which arranges sequences of DNA "blocks" comparatively to other sequences to determine the source of genetic disease.

Featured microbe: Plasmodium Malaria in humans (and the mosquito vector) is a result of a Plasmodium parasitic infection.  The life cycle of the parasite causes rupture of red blood cells and releases the "young" parasite form, infecting other cells.  Scientists were able to capture this "invasion" event on video for the first time.


  1. That is really interesting about the appendix. And I would love to go to space, but the idea is kind of scary!

  2. Out of nowhere, I sort of wanted to just clap that there was a blog series on SCIENCE. Not that I don’t appreciate the never ending Etsy finds on most blogs but.. ::nerd alert:: IT’S SCIENCE.

    I love you.