Weekly Space Hangout – March 27, 2015: Dark Matter Galaxy “X” with Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti, Lead Investigator for team that may have discovered Dark Matter Galaxy “X”.

Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
Read the rest of Weekly Space Hangout – March 27, 2015: Dark Matter Galaxy “X” with Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti (335 words)

© Fraser for Universe Today, 2015. |
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U.S. Pilots Expose Major Holes In Mental Health Screening Process

WASHINGTON (AP) — There is little effective, real-world screening of airline pilots for mental problems despite regulations in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere that say mental health should be part of their regular medical exams, pilots and safety experts said.

The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain, which killed all 150 people aboard, has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. Authorities believe the 27-year-old German deliberately sought to destroy the Airbus A320 as it flew Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration requires that pilots receive a physical exam from a flight surgeon annually or every six months depending upon the pilot’s age. The International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency that sets global aviation standards, also requires that pilots receive a periodic medical exam, including a mental assessment.

Technically, doctors are supposed to probe for mental problems, but pilots said that’s usually not how it works.

“There really is no mental health vetting,” said John Gadzinski, a captain with a major U.S. airline and former Navy pilot. In 29 years of physicals from flight surgeons he’s never once been asked about his mental health, he said.

Doug Moss, a Boeing 777 pilot for a major airline, said: “It is a very cursory inspection. If a pilot can just hold a reasonable conversation with a flight surgeon then that generally fulfills his square.”

There also is no confidential reporting, Gadzinski said. “If you had a mental health issue, you certainly wouldn’t tell your flight surgeon about that because it goes right to the FAA,” he said.

A negative mental health evaluation would likely cause the FAA to withdraw the pilot’s medical certificate, which means the pilot would no longer be able to fly.

Pilots are also required to disclose existing psychological conditions and medications on health —> Read More

Mae-Wan Ho: No Boundary Really Between Genetic and Epigenetic


As co-founder and director of ISIS (Institute of Science in Society), the UK-based organization focused on reclaiming science for the public good, Mae-Wan Ho, a geneticist, has for many years questioned the engineering of our food supply and addressed other biotechnology issues. She has also been one of neo-Darwinism’s most effective critics.

Oxford University physiologist Denis Noble has cited the early work of Mae-Wan Ho and physicist and theoretical biologist Peter Saunders as partly inspiring his much discussed paper on replacing neo-Darwinism published recently in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Noble wrote the following:

“In certain respects, my article reflects some of the points made over 30 years ago by Ho and Saunders (Ho and Saunders, 1979) who wrote: ‘The intrinsic dynamical structure of the epigenetic system itself, in its interaction with the environment, is the source of non-random variations which direct evolutionary change, and that a proper study of evolution consists in the working out of the dynamics of the epigenetic system and its response to environmental stimuli as well as the mechanisms whereby novel developmental responses are canalized.’ Their ideas also owe much to those of Conrad Waddington – the term ‘canalized’ is one that he often used.”

I decided to phone Ho and Saunders, who are married to each other. My interview with Mae-Wan Ho follows.

Although Ho has not let up in her criticism of the Modern Synthesis, as our conversation reveals, she says evolutionary science has now “moved on to such an extent” that she and Peter Saunders don’t really care anymore about “trying to convince the neo-Darwinists.”

Mae-Wan Ho’s BSc in biology and chemistry (first class honors) and her PhD in biochemistry are from Hong Kong University. She was a —> Read More

Ancestors’ Knowledge Helps Keep These Kids ‘Strong’

By Anika Rice, Explorer Programs

Northeastern Madagascar’s incredibly diverse forests are home to rich local medicinal traditions. The Makira forest area in particular houses some 250 plant species that are used to treat more than 80 illnesses. Some experts estimate that the Makira watershed houses 50 percent of Malagasy floral biodiversity. Locals harvest and prepare these plants to treat everything from everyday fatigue and headaches to more serious ailments like malaria.

The Makira Natural Park is home to the Betsimisaraka and Tsimihety ethnolinguistic groups, communities that were historically free from major colonial influences. When Portuguese, Arab, French, and local regimes exercised control over the island, their rule did not reach as far as the forest interior within the park, allowing the local medicinal traditions of these groups to continue to thrive.

With support from National Geographic’s Genographic Legacy Fund, Makira forest community members have created a guidebook, or pharmacopoeia, to document each species’ properties, preparation, dosage, and treatment method. With generations of stories and information associated with medicinal treatment the pharmacopoeia holds a wealth of local ethnobotanical knowledge. The pharmacopoeia not only creates a resource for traditional medicine, it indirectly promotes conservation by demonstrating the immense value of the forest ecosystem.

Long-time Makira researcher and National Geographic 2014 Emerging Explorer Christopher Golden carried out the project with a local women’s group, skilled community healers, and a local research team called MAHERY (Madagascar Health and Environmental Research). Locally, the word mahery means “strong.”

Since 2004, the group has continually added to a species database, where information is gathered from individual households on how they use plants medicinally. With a Legacy Fund grant, the project expanded. The research team verified and organized the data, working closely with 25 communities in the Park, and two artists were enlisted in the herculean effort to draw each of —> Read More

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