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To Keep Their Son Alive, They Sleep in Shifts. And Hope a Nurse Shows Up.

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It was 9 a.m. on a Sunday in May, and Chloe Mead was already worn out.

In her living room, she cradled her 7-year-old son, Henry, supporting his head with one hand and helping him toss a ball with the other, careful not to disturb the ventilator that was keeping him alive. A nearby monitor tracked his blood-oxygen levels and a pump was at the ready should his tracheotomy tube need cleaning. In the corner, her 4-year-old daughter was building a pillow fort.

“I need, like, five extra arms,” she said.

Ordinarily, she wouldn’t be by herself. Since infancy, Henry, who has spinal muscular atrophy, a rare muscle-wasting disorder, has had intensive, round-the-clock nursing at home, with Ms. Mead and her husband serving as fallbacks when a nurse unexpectedly cancels a shift.

But the recent shortage of home-care nurses has forced the couple, who live in Queens, to handle longer and longer periods on their own — as many as 36 hours at a stretch. That morning, her husband, Andy Maskin, was catching up on sleep so he could take that night’s late shift, from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m., when he begins his own workweek.

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Chloe Mead and Andy Maskin tended to their 7-year-old son, Henry, who requires 24-hour medical care.

Chloe Mead and Andy Maskin tended to their 7-year-old son, Henry, who requires 24-hour medical care. Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.nytimes.com

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Meet the swirlon, a new kind of matter that bends the laws of physics

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Fish school, insects swarm, and birds fly in murmurations. Now, new research finds that on the most basic level, this kind of group behavior forms a new kind of active matter, called a swirlonic state. 

Physical laws such as Newton’s second law of motion — which states that as a force applied to an object increases, its acceleration increases, and that as the object’s mass increases, its acceleration decreases — apply to passive, nonliving matter, ranging from atoms to planets. But much of the matter in the world is active matter and moves under its own, self-directed, force, said Nikolai Brilliantov, a mathematician at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia and the University of Leicester in England. Living things as diverse as bacteria, birds and humans can interact with the forces upon them. There are examples of non-living active matter, too. Nanoparticles known as “Janus particles,” are made up of two sides with different chemical properties. The interactions between the two sides create self-propelled movement.

To explore active matter, Brilliantov and his colleagues used a computer to simulate particles that could self-propel. These particles weren’t consciously interacting with the environment, Brilliantov told Live Science. Rather, they were more akin to simple bacteria or nanoparticles with internal sources of energy, but without information-processing abilities. 

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school of barracuda

(Image credit: Alex Solich/Getty)

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.livescience.com/swirlonic-matter-unusual-behavor.html

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Sydney NSW, Australia

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Sydney is the capital city of the state of New South Wales, and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia’s east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south, and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, spread across 33 local government areas. Informally there are at least 15 regions. Residents of the city are known as “Sydneysiders”. As of June 2020, Sydney’s estimated metropolitan population was 5,367,206, meaning the city is home to approximately 66% of the state’s population.

Indigenous Australians have inhabited the Sydney area for at least 30,000 years, and thousands of engravings remain throughout the region, making it one of the richest in Australia in terms of Aboriginal archaeological sites. Around 29 clan groups of the Eora Nation inhabited the region at the time of European contact. During his first Pacific voyage in 1770, Lieutenant James Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to chart the eastern coast of Australia, making landfall at Botany Bay and inspiring British interest in the area. In 1788, the First Fleet of convicts, led by Arthur Phillip, founded Sydney as a British penal colony, the first European settlement in Australia. Phillip named the settlement after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. Penal transportation to New South Wales ended soon after Sydney was incorporated as a city in 1842. A gold rush occurred in the colony in 1851, and over the next century, Sydney transformed from a colonial outpost into a major global cultural and economic center. After World War II, it experienced mass migration and became one of the most multicultural cities in the world. At the time of the 2011 census, more than 250 different languages were spoken in Sydney. In the 2016 Census, about 35.8% of residents spoke a language other than English at home. Furthermore, 45.4% of the population reported having been born overseas, and the city has the third-largest foreign-born population of any city in the world after London and New York City. Between 1971 and 2018, Sydney lost a net number of 716,832 people to the rest of Australia but its population has continued to grow, largely due to immigration. Wikipedia

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SydneyNSW, Australia – Bing images

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Expect the Unexpected From the Delta Variant

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This much is clear: The coronavirus is becoming more transmissible. Ever since the virus emerged in China, it has been gaining mutations that help it spread more easily among humans. The Alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom last year, is 50 percent more transmissible than the original version, and now the Delta variant, first detected in India, is at least 40 percent more transmissible than Alpha.

What’s less certain, however, is how the virus’s increased transmissibility will affect the pandemic in the United States. Alpha’s arrival prompted worries about a new surge in the spring, but one never came. The proportion of Alpha cases kept going up, but the total number of cases kept going down. People got vaccinated. Alpha became dominant in the U.S. Cases fell even further. The virus had become more biologically transmissible, but it wasn’t being transmitted to more people.

There was one notable and confusing exception: In April, Michigan experienced a spike in cases that experts believe was indeed fueled by Alpha. The fact that the variant had such different consequences for Michigan than it did for the rest of the country shows just how difficult it is to make predictions. Vaccines protect against Alpha, but fears about the variants that slightly erode vaccine protection, Beta and Gamma, have also quieted; neither is causing significant case spikes among the vaccinated. “If there’s ever a time that we needed to be humble, it’s around this issue,” says Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota.

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black coronavirus on white background, white coronavirus on black backgroundXia Yang / Getty / The Atlantic

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/06/expect-unexpected-delta-variant/619245/

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Neuroscientists Have Discovered a Phenomenon That They Can’t Explain

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Carl Schoonover and Andrew Fink are confused. As neuroscientists, they know that the brain must be flexible but not too flexible. It must rewire itself in the face of new experiences, but must also consistently represent the features of the external world. How? The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset or hears a bell. These representations—these patterns of neural firing—presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others have found, they sometimes don’t. They change—and to a confusing and unexpected extent.

Schoonover, Fink, and their colleagues from Columbia University allowed mice to sniff the same odors over several days and weeks and recorded the activity of neurons in the rodents’ piriform cortex—a brain region involved in identifying smells. At a given moment, each odor caused a distinctive group of neurons in this region to fire. But as time went on, the makeup of these groups slowly changed. Some neurons stopped responding to the smells; others started. After a month, each group was almost completely different. Put it this way: The neurons that represented the smell of an apple in May and those that represented the same smell in June were as different from each other as those that represent the smells of apples and grass at any one time.

This is, of course, just one study, of one brain region, in mice. But other scientists have shown that the same phenomenon, called representational drift, occurs in a variety of brain regions besides the piriform cortex. Its existence is clear; everything else is a mystery. Schoonover and Fink told me that they don’t know why it happens, what it means, how the brain copes, or how much of the brain behaves in this way. How can animals possibly make any lasting sense of the world if their neural responses to that world are constantly in flux? If such flux is common, “there must be mechanisms in the brain that are undiscovered and even unimagined that allow it to keep up,” Schoonover said. “Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused. We expect it to take many years to iron out.”

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A red mouse on a yellow background with black puzzle pieces raining downAdam Maida / The Atlantic / Shutterstock

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/06/the-brain-isnt-supposed-to-change-this-much/619145/

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Your Daily AM Roundup Fulfilling the Promise of the Land Grant University | Kip Curtis | TEDxOhioStateUniversity – YouTube
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Petrified Forest National Park

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Petrified Forest National Park is an American national park in Navajo and Apache counties in northeastern Arizona. Named for its large deposits of petrified wood, the park covers about 346 square miles (900 square kilometers), encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands. The park’s headquarters is about 26 miles (42 km) east of Holbrook along Interstate 40 (I-40), which parallels the BNSF Railway’s Southern Transcon, the Puerco River, and historic U.S. Route 66, all crossing the park roughly east-west. The site, the northern part of which extends into the Painted Desert, was declared a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962. The park received 644,922 recreational visitors in 2018.

Averaging about 5,400 feet (1,600 m) in elevation, the park has a dry windy climate with temperatures that vary from summer highs of about 100 °F (38 °C) to winter lows well below freezing. More than 400 species of plants, dominated by grasses such as bunchgrass, blue grama, and sacaton, are found in the park. Fauna include larger animals such as pronghorns, coyotes, and bobcats, many smaller animals, such as deer mice, snakes, lizards, seven kinds of amphibians, and more than 200 species of birds, some of which are permanent residents and many of which are migratory. About one-third of the park is designated wilderness—50,260 acres (79 sq mi; 203 km2). Wikipedia

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An image from the Petrified Forest National Park

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Wait, Vaccine Lotteries Actually Work?

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United Airlines would very much like people to start flying on airplanes again. They stopped during the pandemic—nearly 10 times as many people flew in the United States on Memorial Day weekend in 2019, the Before Times, as on the same three days in 2020. That’s a problem for United, because air travel is, like, United’s whole thing.

That company would also very much like the people who do fly on airplanes to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Not that planes and airports are crucibles of infection! Definitely not, probably. But vaccinations are, let’s agree, a social good. Pretty much everyone wins, except germs.

But United doesn’t want to require vaccination. People get so mad. So earlier this year, corporate bigwigs started brainstorming ideas to encourage people to get vaccinated and also fly United. Their idea: Give everyone who gets their shots a reward. Maybe a few thousand miles’ worth of frequent-flier points? It’s the airline equivalent of a doughnut or a beer. You can have it, as a treat.

But no. “There were a number of us involved who, I would say, lean heavily from the marketing sciences group within United who said, ‘Actually, that’s not the right path,” says Luc Bondar, the vice president of marketing at United and president of the airline’s frequent-flier program, MileagePlus. “I may have crashed an executive meeting to say that there’s a different way. And out of some healthy discussion, we agreed on an approach that’s very aligned with behavioral science.”

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lottery machinePhotograph: Tony Garcia/Getty Images

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.wired.com/story/wait-vaccine-lotteries-actually-work/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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How Do Astronauts Spend Their Weekends in Space?

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Wake up, work, relax, sleep, repeat.

For many on Earth, this is a typical day—a nine to five job, some downtime in the evening ready for the day ahead, and two days off at the weekend.

It might come as a surprise to learn that astronauts in space keep a very similar schedule. Just like us mere Earthlings, they work regular hours, with plenty of free time to unwind. They even get weekends off—barring any cause for alarm on the International Space Station (ISS) that requires immediate attention, like dodging space debris.

“It’s important to offer those opportunities for them to decompress,” says Alexandra Whitemire, the Deputy Element Scientist for the Human Factors and Behavioral Performance (HFBP) team at NASA. “They’re living and working in the same tin can, so it’s an important aspect of the mission.”

While it might seem obvious now, this consideration for an astronaut’s work-life balance and mental health was not always the case. Decades of space missions have allowed us to reach this point, and along the way, we’ve encountered and overcome a few challenges. To understand where it all began, we need to take a step back to the dawn of human spaceflight.

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Astronaut Plays the Saxophone In Space

Jessica U. Meir plays sax in the Cupola. (NASA)

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-do-astronauts-spend-their-weekends-space-180977480/

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