Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pen pals, Geek girls, Drinkables, & Jams

I thought I'd do another vlog (take advantage of being home alone while Matt is at work so he can't judge laugh at interrupt me) and talk about some things that I'm currently obsessing over! (Maybe I'm a little bit inspired by Mandy's Obsessed feature on her blog).

I hate re-watching and editing these, because I realize how much I say "um" or "uhhhh" or "so....".  I tried to edit out most of those non-verbals, but pretty much every other sentence starts with "So..."

So I apologize. (see what I did there?)

Here's the linky-links!
Adagio Teas Fandom Blends
Plant Nanny
The Gray Havens

And here's bonus footage of JoJo being adorable ;)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Science Saturday 4.4: Brains, Bird Flu & More

Earlier this month, the White House announced the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies).  This project is a "bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury."  Watch the video introduction by NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins.


Speaking of brains, new research suggests that MRI scans can reveal images people are seeing when they are sleeping - this "dream reading" is reported up to 60% accuracy.  Volunteers were scanned as they began to fall asleep, and were promptly woken up (before reaching deep sleep) to recount what they were beginning to dream about.  Researchers compiled scan data with answers to create a database of visual categories.  Therefore, specific patterns of brain activity correlated with certain images.  It is noted that this technology is "idiosyncratic to the individual," so you would not be able to use a single machine to read other peoples thoughts/dreams.


China is currently dealing with a bird flu outbreak - involving a novel strain of influenza, H7N9.  While this strain has been around in birds, this is the first time ever that scientists have recorded the virus infecting humans.  As of April 12th, a total of 43 patients have been laboratory confirmed with influenza A(H7N9) virus in China; including 11 deaths (via WHO).  Currently, it does not appear that the virus can be passed via human-to-human transmission, but government health agency's are taking precautions to prevent a global pandemic.

Have questions about influenza virus? What exactly are those H's and N's you see in the media?  How do you know what type of influenza strain can infect humans?  Check out this lovely infographic has the answers!


Exactly how far is it to Mars?  Check out this amazing interactive web graphic to find out!


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Biology of Zombies

Last week, I decided to do a fun presentation for my intro to biology students about the biological possibility of zombies.  Most of them thought it was interesting stuff (some of them thought I was stupid, but "so what, who cares?"), and I had a lot of fun putting together my presentation.  So I thought I'd share some of the high points for my blog readers!

First of all, what makes a zombie?  How are they biologically possible if they are not dead, but not alive?  Dr. Steven Schlozman gives an overview of the anatomy of the brain and what areas would need to be dysfunctional for certain zombie characteristics.

So how would the zombie apocalypse begin?  Most likely, it would spread as an infectious disease caused by one of several pathogens.  A pathogen is simply an organism that causes disease.  This includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and prions.  Each pathogen has certain characteristics that would make it well suited to spread the zombie plague - additionally, some examples of these real-life diseases have been documented to present zombie-like behaviors in various animals, including humans...

Viruses come in many varieties, and therefore can cause different symptoms.  Some can integrate themselves into your own DNA (like HIV), some can evolve/adapt rapidly (like influenza virus), and many have a rapid rate of transmission and can infect quickly.  Gypsy moth caterpillars become infected by baculovirus, which causes them to zombie crawl up a tree where they "liquify" and drip viral fluid onto other healthy caterpillars.

Prions are misfolded protein units that affect the brain, leaving "spongy" holes in the tissue.  They are transmitted via ingestion, and cause diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. Kuru is a disease that caused an epidemic amongst the Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea.  It caused tremors, poor coordination, and slurred speech.  It was discovered that this was a prion disease, passed on due to cannibalism.

Fungi can spread easily due to the airborne transmission of its spores.  They can cause superficial infections of the skin, or systemic infections of internal organs.  Some fungi, like Cordyceps, can act as a parasite - hijacking a host's body, such as an ant, to use its precious resources in order to survive and spread.

Parasites, as mentioned above, infect a host and depend on the host's body as a resource to feed, grow, and reproduce.  The jewel wasp is a parasitic predator, infecting cockroaches with a neurotoxin transmitted by their sting.  This toxin affects the roach's brain, causing it to turn into a "zombie-like" state.  The wasp then uses this zombie body as a living incubator for its eggs.  When the larvae hatch, they eat the roach and go on with their lives.
If one of these pathogens made the jump to infect humans, it's possible that a zombie plague could sweep the globe.  Of course, they are fictional characters, but we can't always predict what is a possibility in the future.  The Centers for Disease Control even released a "Zombie Survival Guide" a couple years ago.  What do you think?  Are you prepared to survive the zombie apocalypse?!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Four Cubed

It's the 4th day of the 4th month and we are celebrating our 4th year of marriage!! There must be a special name for that, right? ;)

Mushy post ahoy!!

We've been through quite a bit in these four years: laughter, tears, joy, sadness, celebration, depression, peace, anxiety, change, & growth.  But above all - LOVE.  Here's to many more years having FUN with my best friend!  I love you, Matthew J. Mohns!

"Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God." - Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish
one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." - Colossians 3:16 (NIV)