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Fairy Circles in Grasslands of Namibia Africa: Mystery for Scientists

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Fairy Circles Namibia

Fairy Circles found in the sandy desert grasslands of Namibia in southern Africa will form and then disappear for years for no reason.

Tens of thousands of these Fairy Circles, which are bare patches of soil, 2 to 12 meters in diameter are making researchers scratch their heads in mystery.

Walter Tschinkel, biologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, first noticed the fairy circles in 2005 on a safari trip to NamibRand Nature Reserve in southwest Namibia, in the Namib Desert. At first, he thought the circles were just from termites, but digs have shown no evidence of termite nests under a fairy circle.

Other explanations for the mysterious fairy circles are differences in soil nutrients or the death of seedlings by toxic vapors from the ground, haven’t been able to hold up to the truth in studies.

Tschinkel wanted to know more. So he took a look at satellite images over a 4-year period, he was able to confirm something other scientists had suspected; the circles were alive. A number of circles appeared and disappeared over this time period. From this data, Tschinkel calculated that smaller fairy circles appear and vanish every 24 years, whereas larger circles can last up to 75 years. While the overall lifespan averages to 41 years. With the smallest circles being about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter, while the largest can be almost 40 feet (12 m) across.

The question still remains and needs to be answered, why do these fairy circles form and then vanish after decades? Study researcher Walter Tschinkel said, “The why question is very difficult. There are a number of hypotheses on the table, and the evidence for none of them is convincing. It’s like dying and going to heaven if you like remote, beautiful desert places”

He was able to determine that the fairy circles form only on sandy soil with minimal stoniness, and that they don’t form on shifting dunes or alluvial fans, where sands are deposited by water.

Very little is known about Fairy Circles and few researchers care to take the time to investigate into them. Tschinkel says. “There’s no program really focused on trying to figure this out. I’m not too worried that this mystery is going to be solved anytime soon.” He added that the persistence of the mystery makes it even more intriguing saying, “That’s science, isn’t it? If you knew the answer ahead of time, it wouldn’t be much fun.”

Fairy Circles Namib Desert

Tschinkel wants to return to the region where the fairy circles are to conduct tests at different times of year, as some of his data indicate that circles tend to form only after the rainy season. He also knows that he may never get to the bottom of what causes the fairy circles and that’s okay with him.

Fairy Circles

A clip from Mystery of the Fairy Circles.

Mystery of the Fairy Circles: http://bit.ly/MC2P36

Images: Mike and Ann Scott of the NamibRand Nature Reserve

Environmentalist. Consumer Tech Journalist. Science Explorer. And, a dreamer. I've been contributing informative news content since 2010. Follow me on all socials!

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Animals

Dogs’ Paw-erful Sense Of Smell Can Detect Cancer

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Dogs' Sense of Smell can detect cancer
Photo: Everton Yamamoto | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Dogs won’t be known as the man’s best friend if they haven’t been helpful to humans in so many ways. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are very reliable in crime scenes, fact-finding missions or rescue operations, tracking wanted criminals and finding explosives before they detonate, and so as its other kinds.

According to Bustle.com‘s JR Thorpe, owning a dog can be useful for one’s physical and mental health. They can boost a human’s oxytocin levels just by staring at their eyes; they can help with depression, increase their owner’s immune system, provide stress relief, and can maintain lower blood pressure.

Dogs are again making tons of positive impact on human lives; they can now smell illnesses in humans. Trained dogs can sniff diseases like cancer release microscopic chemical particles before they are seen in blood tests.

The research revealed that dogs could smell cancer in the blood. The study, executed at BioScentDx Lab, revealed an astonishing 96.7% precision among trained dogs. The result was presented during the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Four beagles were used to test whether a dog’s sense of smell can detect blood samples with cancer using blood from healthy and lung cancer patients. Three dogs were able to recognize cancerous blood samples 96.7% and 97.5 for healthy blood samples.

This research is interesting since it leads to two paths, which can both lead to modern cancer detection tools. First, canine scent detection can be used as a screening method for cancers. Second, the biologic compounds that the dogs detect can be recognized, and cancer screening tests can be created based on it.

The study can result in future cancer detection and turning the method into something that is more safer and less expensive, says lead researcher, Heather Junqueira. Based on their website, it only costs $50. Further, Junqueira highlighted the possibilities of dogs in assisting in detecting other illnesses aside from cancer faster.

Previous studies proved that dogs can sniff cancer even though it was still in its very early stages. Last 2017, a trained golden retriever and pit bull mix can recognize the existence of lung cancer via breath samples with an incredible precision rate. In 2013, trained dogs can detect breast cancer via blood samples with 97% precision. Lastly, in 2011, Marine – a black Labrador – was able to detect colon cancer with 97% accuracy.

According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, there are various medical technologies used to detect cancer, but the method used depends on the type of disease and the patient needs.

Overall, there are four diagnostic evaluation categories, such as diagnostic imaging tests, diagnostic procedures, lab tests, and tumor markers. But, cancer diagnosis and treatment are known to be extremely expensive.

Recently, approved cancer drugs usually cost $10,000 monthly, and some therapies cost more than $30,000 per month.

This study can help people with less financial resources to gain access to a new cancer detection procedure, which is also non-invasive. Cancer diagnosis, at its earliest stages, provides the patient with the best chance for a cure.

A biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose cancer. During the biopsy, a part of the tumor or lump is removed for the medical staff to evaluate whether it is malignant (cancerous) or benign (not harmful). But taking a biopsy includes risks such as bleeding or infection. If the taken lump is discovered to be malignant, cancer can spread faster.

Currently, Junquera and her team are testing if dogs can sniff cancer in breath condensate of breast cancer patients. When breast cancer research is conducted, some participants donated breath samples to be screened by the top cancer-sniffing dogs.

But, Junquera mentioned, that the dog cancer screenings are not supposed to take the place of doctor’s checkup or health examinations, also known as Mammograms – even though cancer currently has no cure. Prevention is always better than cure and is the best option that any patient can choose from to survive.

An early cancer diagnosis can save lives and can significantly cut treatment costs. An extremely delicate cancer detecting test has the potential to save thousands of people and can change the manner/process of cancer treatment.

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Environment

England Moves To Ban Plastic By April 2020

England is enforcing a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds, and stirrers in April 2020 to mitigate problems relating to plastic pollution in the ocean. Click To Tweet

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Turning the tide on plastic pollution | Photo From: Cardiff University

England Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, confirmed in a statement that the UK would be making its fair share in environmental protection by banning plastic in the country by April 2020. The UK government will ban plastic straws, cue tips with plastics handles, and stirrers all over the country, however, with some exceptions.

Plastic straws will remain available for individuals with disabilities and medical purposes. Therefore, plastic straws will be made available through registered pharmacies who can sell them over the counter or through online.

Moreover, restaurants, pubs, and bars are also allowed to keep a stock that will be readily available to customers upon request. Notably, establishments cannot publicly display plastic straws and will now serve coffee without stirrers.

Annually, England uses an approximate of 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million stirrers, an 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cue tips, the statement said. About 10% of cue tips used ends up getting flushed down the toilet and into the oceans.

In contrast, a public consultation held by the government showed that over 80% of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, 90% a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89% a ban on cotton buds, which led to the ban on plastic.

Companies choose to work with plastic since it is a cheap and versatile material to use. As a society, we have grown dependent on plastic as a universal tool that functions as a disposable form of general materials. We can see this through plastic bags for our groceries or the plastic spoon and fork you use when you’re on a camping trip. It’s also present in a lot of practical uses such as in household appliances, in your car, and basically, everywhere you go.

But the kind of plastic that the UK government is eyeing to ban is specific to the environmental impact these objects create, which are the senseless single-use plastics that continues to pump itself endlessly in the market.

Moreover, the idea of plastic being ‘disposable’ is a double-edged sword: people can use them without having to worry about its worth, while the other end of the spectrum acknowledges that because it’s known to be disposable and cheap, we can buy, use, throw, and repeat without consideration.

We have been desensitized of the impacts of our small actions to the rest of the world. We tend to think that a single piece of plastic can’t hurt but don’t seem to consider that if all of the 7 billion people believe the same way, that would also result to 7 billion pieces of plastic out in the streets or into the ocean.

In the case of plastics, they don’t decompose quickly like materials made from natural resources such as paper and wood-based materials. They often take decades to disappear naturally but only needs seconds to pollute, harm, and possibly kill the entire ecosystem.

It is estimated that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and every year, one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. A recent report estimates that plastics in the sea is set to triple by 2025 – unless human societies make actions to prevent it from happening.

“Urgent and decisive action is needed to tackle plastic pollution and protect our environment. These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life. So today I am taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations,” Secretary Gove said in a statement.

Although plastic straws, cue tips, and stirrers hardly make a portion that’s polluting the ocean, it’s still a significant step into the fight against single-use plastic. With the growing movement in support of being more responsible with our footprint in the environment, the England government’s latest announcement solidifies and strengthens the cause.

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Health

Recent Study Discovered CBD Helps Fight Against Heroin Addiction

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CBD Oil. | Photo From: Medical News Today

The legalization of cannabis across some states promises to bring medicinal properties that can help alleviate ailments such as anxiety, depression, and popularly, some cases of Parkinson’s disease.

However, a part of making it legal also enable people to make subjective ailments such as depression and anxiety a reason to purchase the drug and get ‘high.’

Popularly, cannabis has been told to be a gateway drug that allows a person to test the waters before proceeding to something stronger. Ironically, a new study shows that cannabis has the possibility of reversing the effects of addiction.

Researchers from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York announced that CBD oil helps limit particular cravings and help reduce anxiety for heroin users.

The cannabidiol or CBD is a compound extracted from Cannabis plant that has shown significant potential as a form of medication. Moreover, CBD does not interact with any receptors that causes a person to get high.

“To address the critical need for new treatment options for the millions of people and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, we initiated a study to assess the potential of a nonintoxicating cannabinoid on craving and anxiety in heroin-addicted individuals,” said lead study author Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in a statement.

Particularly, Hurd indicates the American opioid epidemic that took the lives of 300,00 people and will continue to do so unless people find ways to address the problem. Hurd tells NBC, “We’re too slow to address addiction in our society. When the flu comes up and the measles comes up, we have so many people trying to help. But we don’t have the same kind of urgency with addiction.”

Primarily, drug addiction is a very tricky and challenging area to study due to every individual’s varying attitudes and behaviors towards drug use. It’s even harder when they’re trying to perform the study on a hundred people through the course of a number of weeks.

Moreover, there is the risk of exposing the participants in a possible case of a relapse. It is known that the hardest part of getting off heroin addiction isn’t the physical longing for the drug. Particularly, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are available to help target the same pathways opioids take to relieve the physical longing.

Sometimes the most challenging part with addiction is avoiding the risk of a relapse. Working around relapse-tense situations is like walking on thin ice. They can be triggered by emotions, sounds, and anything that addicts could associate with their drug use and cause them to suddenly and instinctively crave the drug to alleviate the anxiety. This is where the study shows to have great promise.

Researchers found out that participants who received CBD administration significantly showed reductions in drug cravings. Further, the same participants showed lesser symptoms of anxiety when images of people taking drugs were shown. Moreover, they’ve discovered that CBD had a lasting effect on reducing drug cravings and anxiety, and extending well over when the CBD was supposedly flushed out of the system.

The study could potentially aim at addressing the anxiety factor in drug addiction therapy, which is currently lacking in the industry.

The research consisted of a small group of 42 drug-abstinent men and women aged from 21 to 65 years old who had a history with heroin disorder. They gave half of the participants 400mg or 800mg of CBD oil once daily and the other half with a placebo. The study then experimented on three separate occasions: immediately following administration, 24 hours after CBD or placebo administration, and seven days after the third and final daily CBD or placebo administration.

However, the study is still at its early stages of development, and further investigation is required to fully claim that CBD has anything to do with the results shown. It still is a possibility that other factors may have contributed to the positive findings of the study or, even an entirely different set of external factors.

On the positive side, this is a great breakthrough study that could potentially open the door for more research on alleviating anxiety related to drug abuse, and potentially close the doors on risks of future relapse scenarios.

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