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An amateur astronomer from Argentina captured a rare image: one of an exploding star.

Scientists have obtained the first view of the initial burst of light from the explosion of a massive star, thanks to lucky snapshots taken by an amateur astronomer in Argentina. While testing a new camera, Victor Buso captured images of a distant galaxy before and after the supernova’s ‘shock breakout’ – when a supersonic pressure wave from the exploding core of the star hits and heats gas at the star’s surface to a very high temperature, causing it to emit light and rapidly brighten.

To date, no one has been able to capture the ‘first optical light’ from a supernova, since stars explode seemingly at random in the sky, and the light from shock breakout is fleeting. The new data provide important clues to the physical structure of the star just before its catastrophic demise and to the nature of the explosion itself. “Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said Alex Filippenko, an astronomer at University of California, Berkeley in the US.

“Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way,” said Filippenko, who followed up the discovery with observations that proved critical to a detailed analysis of explosion, called SN 2016gkg. On September 20, 2016, Buso was testing a new camera on his 16-inch telescope by taking a series of short-exposure photographs of the spiral galaxy NGC 613, which is about 80 million light years from Earth and located within the southern constellation Sculptor.

Luckily, he examined these images immediately and noticed a faint point of light quickly brightening near the end of a spiral arm that was not visible in his first set of images. Astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofisica de La Plata in Argentina soon learned of the serendipitous discovery and realised that Buso had caught a rare event, part of the first hour after light emerges from a massive exploding star. She estimated Buso’s chances of such a discovery, his first supernova, at one in 10 million or perhaps even as low as one in 100 million.

“It’s like winning the cosmic lottery,” said Filippenko. Bersten immediately contacted an international group of astronomers to help conduct additional frequent observations of SN 2016gkg over the next two months, revealing more about the type of star that exploded and the nature of the explosion. Researchers estimated that the initial mass of the star was about 20 times the mass of our Sun, though it lost most of its mass, probably to a companion star, and slimmed down to about 5 solar masses prior to exploding.

 

Courtesy - Indian Express

A research study shows that social media grealty influences teenagers' lives, including their relationships.

Social media experiences of teenagers may spill over into real life and affect their relationships, a study suggests. According to researchers at University of California, Irvine in the US, a new digital divide appears to be emerging over the types of experiences teens have online.

In the research published in the journal Nature, Professor Candice Odgers analysed data from various existing studies. “The evidence so far suggests that smartphones may serve as mirrors reflecting problems teens already have,” Odgers said. “Those from low-income families said that social media experiences more frequently spilled over into real life, causing more offline fights and problems at school,” said Odgers.

In a 2015 survey by Odgers and colleagues, 10- to 15-year-olds reported high levels of regular internet access regardless of family income: 92 per cent for those from economically disadvantaged homes and 97 per cent for their more affluent peers. The gap in smartphone ownership is even smaller, at 65 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively, researchers said. Other studies reviewed by Odgers indicated the need for additional support from parents, schools or other community organisations for adolescents from economically disadvantaged households, who are more likely to be bullied, solicited and victimised in cyberspace.

They also usually have less parental mediation, guidance and supervision of their online activities, researchers said. “The majority of young people appear to be doing well in the digital age, and many are thriving with the new opportunities that electronic media provides. “But those who are already struggling offline need our help online too,” Odgers said.

“Strategies that encourage parental involvement – as well as partnerships between local governments, technology companies and educational institutions – are key to ensuring that all young people, including the most vulnerable, have positive online experiences,” said Odgers.

 

Courtesy - Indian Express

Friday, 23 February 2018 03:38

Surgery may affect patients’ memory: study

Reduced immediate memory scores at the second visit were significantly associated with the number of operations in the preceding nine years. Working memory decline was associated with longer cumulative operations, researchers said.

 

Patients may score slightly lower on certain memory tests after undergoing surgery, a study suggests.

The study published in the journal Anaesthesia involved 312 participants who had surgery and 652 participants who had not (with an average age in the 50s).

Surgery between tests was associated with a decline in immediate memory by one point out of a possible maximum test score of 30 points, researchers said.

Memory became abnormal in 77 out of 670 participants with initially normal memory comprising 18 per cent of those who had had surgery compared with 10 per cent of those who had not, they said.

“The cognitive changes we report are highly statistically significant in view of the internal normative standards we employ, and the large sample size of the control, or non-surgery, population,” said Kirk Hogan from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

“However, the cognitive changes after surgery are small – most probably asymptomatic and beneath a person’s awareness,” said Hogan.

No differences in other measures of memory and executive function were observed between participants having and not having surgery.

Reduced immediate memory scores at the second visit were significantly associated with the number of operations in the preceding nine years.

Working memory decline was associated with longer cumulative operations, researchers said.

“The results await confirmation both in follow-up investigations in our own population sample after more surgeries in aging participants, and by other investigators with other population samples,” said Hogan.

He noted that it is too early to recommend any changes in clinical practice regarding prevention, diagnosis, management, and prognosis of cognitive changes after surgery.

 

Courtesy - Indian Express

 

 

Courtesy - Indian Express

 

A big tummy with thin thighs is equal to high risk of diabetes and a slim tummy with big thighs is equal to low risk of diabetes. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has come out with a new study that can help predict diabetes. Find out more here.

According to International Diabetes Federation, there were over 72 million cases of diabetes in India in 2017. The number of Indians suffering from this malicious disease is expected to cross the 100 million mark by 2030. A large part of this epidemic spreading so rampantly can be attributed to the rising obesity.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital along with Motilal Nehru Medical College of Allahabad, has recently discovered a “simple and cost-effective screening tool” to identify people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes.

According to the study, “Big tummy with thin thighs is equal to high risk of diabetes and slim tummy with big thighs is equal to low risk of diabetes.”

Why do big thighs protect one from diabetes and not a big tummy?

The fat on the thighs called the subcutaneous fat sits under the skin and is not very harmful. On the other hand, a big tummy means one has visceral fat that surrounds the organs. It is a “deep-rooted” fat that changes that way the body functions.

“If two people are overweight, the one having subcutaneous fat is less likely to have diabetes than the one with visceral fat,” says Dr Tejal Lathia, consultant, endocrinologist, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi. However, it does not mean that a person with subcutaneous fat storage cannot develop diabetes, she added.

When should you get checked for diabetes?

People over 40 years of age should get checked for the disease. Those who are younger are likely to develop it if they have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, have a sedentary lifestyle or suffer from hypertension. The other signs to watch out for are:

* If the Body Mass Index (BMI) is more than 23, one is likely to get diabetes.

* A person having a history of gestational diabetes, which means that a pregnant woman without diabetes develops high blood sugar during her carrying period, is a sign of diabetes.

* Giving birth to a baby weighing more than four kilos is also a sign, according to Dr Monika Sharma, Consultant, Endocrinology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi.

What difference has the study made?

The study has made it easier to predict who can or cannot develop diabetes in the future. Dr Atul Gogia, co-author and senior consultant, Department of Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said: “Our study found that diabetics had significantly greater waist circumference than non-diabetics. Also, diabetics had lesser thigh circumference than non-diabetics.

“We found Waist Thigh Ratio (WTR) of 2.3 as a cut-off point as a predictor of diabetes. Simply put, a person having Waist Thigh Ratio (WTR) less than 2.3 will be at low risk of diabetes and may not require further investigation.”

The waist circumference is often used as a parameter for diagnosing diabetes. Dr V Mohan, who is the chairman and Chief of Diabetology at Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention, uses a scoring system which screens the patient’s weight, family history, age and waist circumference.

Why are Indians more prone to have diabetes?

A carb-heavy diet with little protein and high sugar content makes Indians more likely to have diabetes.

The study has made it easier to predict diabetes effectively and inexpensively and this screening can help in further treating the disease.

New research into polar ice has shown that bacteria can survive deeper into ice sheets, raising the possibility of life in our solar systems' distant, icy planets.

For the first time, scientists have discovered living bacteria in polar ice and snow – an environment once considered sterile – altering perceptions about which planets in the universe could sustain alien life. The research also shows that humans may be having an even greater impact on levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere than accepted evidence from climate history studies of ice cores suggests.

Gases captured and sealed in snow as it compresses into ice can provide researchers with snapshots of Earth’s atmosphere going back hundreds of thousands of years. Climate scientists use ice core samples to look at prehistoric levels of CO2 in the atmosphere so they can be compared with current levels in an industrial age. This analysis of ice cores relies on the assumption that there is limited biological activity altering the environment in the snow during its transition into ice.

The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, revealed that the composition of small samples of gas trapped in the ice may have been affected by bacteria that remain active in snow while it is being compressed into ice – a process that can last decades. “As microbial activity and its influence on its local environment has never been taken into account when looking at ice-core gas samples it could provide a moderate source of error in climate history interpretations,” said Kelly Redeker from the University of York in the UK.

“Respiration by bacteria may have slightly increased levels of CO2 in pockets of air trapped within polar ice caps meaning that before human activity CO2 levels may have been even lower than previously thought,” said Redeker. “In addition, the fact that we have observed metabolically active bacteria in the most pristine ice and snow is a sign of life proliferating in environments where you wouldn’t expect it to exist,” he said.

“This suggests we may be able to broaden our horizons when it comes to thinking about which planets are capable of sustaining life,” he added. Research conducted in laboratories has previously shown that bacteria can stay alive at extremely cold temperatures, but this study is the first time that bacteria have been observed altering the polar snow environment in situ.

The researchers looked at snow in is natural state, and in other areas they sterilised it using UV sterilising lamps. When they compared the results the team found unexpected levels of methyl iodide – a gas known to be produced by marine bacteria – in the untouched snow. Researchers also detected the presence of gases at part-per-trillion levels, one million times less concentrated than atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

The results of the study also suggest that life can be sustained even in remote, cold, nutrient poor environments, offering a new perspective on whether the frozen planets of the universe could support microorganisms.

 

Courtesy - Indian Express

Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health. In people who ate the most of green, leafy vegetables brain ageing slowed by 11 years.

Eating one to two servings of salad with spinach, lettuce and kale daily may keep your brain 11 years younger as well as prevent dementia, according to a study.

The study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate these vegetables.

In people who ate the most of green, leafy vegetables brain ageing slowed by 11 years.

“Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health,” said Martha Clare Morris, from the Rush University in Chicago.

“Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical,” Morris added.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 960 people with an average age of 81 who did not have dementia and were followed for an average of 4.7 years.

Over 10 years of follow-up, the rate of decline for those who ate the most leafy greens was slower by 0.05 standardised units per year than the rate for those who ate the least leafy greens. This difference was equivalent to being 11 years younger in age.

The results remained valid after accounting for other factors that could affect brain health such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, education level and amount of physical and cognitive activities, the researchers said.

Courtesy - Indian Express

A study suggests that there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one's moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviours as well

Lending a helping hand to strangers can help teenagers improve self esteem and boost confidence, suggests new research. While adolescents who exhibited pro-social behaviour — such as helping, sharing and comforting — towards strangers had higher self-esteem a year later, the same was not true for those in the study who exhibited pro-social behaviour solely to friends and family, found the research published in the Journal of Adolescence.

“This study helps us to understand that young people who help those with whom they do not have a relationship report feeling better about themselves over time,” said study co-author Laura Padilla-Walker, Professor at Brigham Young University in the US.

“Given the importance of self-esteem during the teen years, this is an important finding. It suggests there might be something about helping strangers that impacts one’s moral identity or perceptions of self in a more significant way than helping friends or family members, although these are beneficial behaviours as well,” Padilla-Walker said.

In the study, researchers looked at 681 adolescents, 11-14 years old, in two US cities. The participants responded to 10 statements such as “I feel useless at times” or “I am satisfied with myself” to assess self-esteem. “Not all helping is created equal, and we’re finding that pro-social behaviour toward strangers is protective in a variety of ways that is unique from other types of helping,” Padilla-Walker said.

Another important finding was that the link between pro-social behaviour and self-esteem was over a one-year time period and present across all three age lags in the study.

Courtesy - Indian Express

Though the number of heart patients is on the rise world-wide, the situation in India is even more alarming, cardiology experts said.

Presidents of five major Cardiological Societies of the world who participated in the 68th annual conference of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI) here yesterday said, the Cardiology sector in India is facing several challenges with recent reports pointing out an alarming rise in heart diseases.

According to American Heart Association President Prof Mark Creager, increase in diabetes is a major factor in increasing heart disease.

"Diabetic patients who have high blood pressure and cholesterol have greater risk of heart diseases," Creager was quoted as saying in a release here.

He cautioned that the diabetic patients who do not control their sugar will end up with a diseased heart.

World Heart Foundation former President, Dr Salim Yusuf pointed out that cardiac illness is one of the major reasons for high number of deaths in India.

The number of cardiac patients in Kerala is three times more than that of the national average, he noted.

"The lifestyle of people in Kerala had led to more people becoming heart patients.
People should reduce carbohydrates and include more fruits in their daily diet for a healthy heart," he opined.

He also stressed the importance of regular exercise in preventing heart disease. When the nature of Cardiac diseases is changing, new cardio vascular technologies are also evolving and gives much hope to the patients, said President designate of European Society of Cardiology, James Blankenship.

European Society of Cardiology President Jeroen Bax said newer technologies have been developed for the detection of diseases.

But, the attitude of people towards the new technology and methods have to change, he said. President of the American College of Cardiology, Mary Norine who spoke on the occasion said the majority of cardiac problems end in heart failure when the heart cannot pump blood and this can cause death.

"However, in these circumstances there are technologies to make the heart function artificially and a prolong life," Norine said. She said though these technologies help patients to live an ordinary life, the doubts of the patients regarding the usage of these methods are yet to be cleared.

"If we are able to clear the doubts, then these treatments will be adopted widely and the number of deaths due to cardiac problems could come down," Norine suggested.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald                       

Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day may provide protection against age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, a new report claims.

The report by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), a not-for-profit organisation devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to coffee and health, highlights the potential role of coffee consumption in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

The report concludes that a moderate intake of coffee (three to five cups per day) may provide protection against age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

"Moderate coffee consumption could play a significant role in reducing cognitive decline which would impact health outcomes and health-care spending across Europe," said Rodrigo A Cunha, Professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

Understanding and communicating diet and lifestyle factors that may limit age-related cognitive decline will help to improve the quality of life, the report said.

According to the report, research published this year suggests that moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by up to 27 per cent.

Research has suggested that it is regular, long-term coffee drinking that is key to helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease, the report said.

The association between coffee consumption and cognitive decline is illustrated by a 'U-shaped' pattern in recent meta-analyses, with the greatest protection seen at an intake of about three to five cups of coffee per day.

Although the precise mechanisms of action behind the suggested association between coffee and age-related cognitive decline are unknown, caffeine is likely to be involved.

There are many other compounds in coffee, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which may also play a role.

Caffeic acid, for example, is a polyphenol (antioxidant) found in coffee, and research suggests that these may be associated with improved cognitive function.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald                       

 

Smokers under the age of 50 are over eight times more likely to suffer a major heart attack compared to peers who do not smoke or gave it up, according to a new study.

Researchers including those from the University of Sheffield in the UK drew on data for 1,727 adults undergoing treatment for a classic type of heart attack known as a STEMI between 2009 and 2012.

A STEMI, or ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, refers to the typical pattern seen on an electrocardiogram (ECG), indicating that a large portion of the heart muscle is dying.

Among other things, this collects information on smoking prevalence and other aspects of perceived health.

Almost half of the 1,727 patients (48.5 per cent) were current smokers, with roughly a quarter (just over 27 per cent) former smokers, and a quarter (just over 24 per cent) non-smokers.

Current smokers tended to be 10-11 years younger than ex or non-smokers when they had their STEMI. And along with ex-smokers, were twice as likely as non-smokers to have had previous episodes of coronary artery disease.

They were also three times as likely as non-smokers to have peripheral vascular disease, a condition in which a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels restricts blood supply to the legs.

Based on the ONS-IHS data, the overall prevalence of smoking in South Yorkshire was 22.4 per cent, with the highest prevalence among those under the age of 50 (just over 27 per cent).

However among STEMI patients under the age of 50, smoking prevalence was almost 75 per cent.

Overall, the data analysis showed that smokers were more than three times more likely to have a STEMI than ex- and non-smokers combined.

The highest risk was among the under-50s who were nearly 8.5 times as likely to do so as former and non-smokers of the same age.

This risk fell with increasing age, dropping to a five-fold difference among 50-65 year olds, and a three-fold difference among the over 65s.

The researchers said that the much higher risk of STEMI in younger smokers is not easy to explain as this age group typically do not have many of the other contributory risk factors that might be seen in older smokers, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.

Smoking may therefore be the most important risk factor, they suggest, adding that other research shows that the fatty deposits furring up the arteries of smokers differ from those of non-smokers and seem to be more vulnerable to rupture.

"All current smokers must be encouraged into smoking cessation therapy to reduce their risk of acute STEMI, with a focus on the youngest smokers whose increased risk is often unrecognised," said researchers. The study was published in the journal Heart.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald                       

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