Digoxin increases the risk of early death in patients with heart problems, large study shows

There is conflicting evidence about whether digoxin, a drug that has been used worldwide for centuries to treat heart disease, might contribute to an increase in deaths in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) or congestive heart failure (CHF). Now, the largest review of all the evidence to date shows that it is associated with an increased risk of death in these patients, particularly in those being treated for AF. —> Read More

60 Percent Of Large Herbivores May Go Extinct Thanks To Humans

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Thanks in part to poaching and habitat loss, 60 percent of the world’s largest herbivores are at risk of extinction, according to a new report published in the journal Science Advances. The study, “Collapse of the World’s Largest Herbivores,” provides a sobering look at 74 of the largest terrestrial plant-eating animals.

The gentle giants have had a tough go as of late. Nearly 100,000 elephants were poached in just three years. A record number of rhinos were killed for their horns in 2014. And mountain gorillas are among the most endangered plant-eaters on Earth.

“I was surprised by the fact that so many of these large animals were consider threatened,” Bill Ripple, a professor at Oregon State’s College of Forestry, told The Huffington Post. “Most of the very large herbivores have already been wiped out in developed countries.”

Ripple and his fellow researchers analyzed population data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They found a majority of large plant-eating animals — found across swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia — face a dual threat of hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation and the spread of livestock. The study points to many of these species as highly important elements of the food web that couldn’t be replaced by smaller species.

A separate study released last week warned one in six plant and animal species are at risk of extinction if climate change continues unabated. Another study conducted by Ripple and his colleagues last year found 60 percent of the world’s largest carnivores — lions, leopards, otters and wolves — were at risk of extinction.

So, what’s to be done?

Ripple said he’s optimistic about conservation because of changes in response to biodiversity —> Read More

Explore Mars with JPL engineer Kobie Boykins

Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory. Courtesy NASA-JPL-Caltech
Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory. Courtesy NASA-JPL-Caltech

From imagining going boldly where no one has gone before, to sending rovers there in real life, Kobie Boykins turned a childhood dream into a prolific career “Exploring Mars.”

A dynamic young engineer at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boykins is on the front line of Mars exploration. He designed the solar arrays that power the Mars exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Most recently, Boykins was responsible for the design of actuators on Curiosity. And, Boykins’ other projects have included work on the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, making measurements by satellite of the Earth’s oceans.

Now, Boykins is sharing his stories about rovers on the red planet and the future of exploration in his National Geographic Live talk “Exploring Mars,” this week in New York. For those who can’t make it to the Big Apple, Boykins answered some questions about his inspirations, life and work as an engineer.

What inspired you to dedicate your career to Space exploration?

I always had a knack for doing things like engineering. I took things apart. My mother claims that there was never a remote control that had a back in the house … Then, I became a Star Trek fan — Star Trek, Star Wars, both of them. But, I started to identify with Lieutenant Commander Geordi Laforge from Star Trek, LeVar Burton … Who I had a [connection] with as a kid as the host of Reading Rainbow. He had a great job. For me, it was like, “Here’s the guy that people ask to fix things.” And that’s what I want to do. I want to be the guy that fixes things. I could be an engineer, and wouldn’t it be cool if I could build space crafts to explore the solar system?

What —> Read More

Italian Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti Brews First Fresh Espresso In Space

samantha cristoforetti

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The first Italian woman in space is now the world’s first orbiting barista.

Over the weekend, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti fired up the first espresso machine in space. She posted a photo of herself on Twitter from the International Space Station on Sunday, sipping from a cup designed for use in zero-gravity.
For the special occasion, she put on her “Star Trek” uniform top.

“Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised,” Cristoforetti said via Twitter, quoting from the old TV series, “Star Trek: Voyager. “

“Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup! To boldly brew…,” she added.

Cristoforetti, who returns to Earth next week following a half-year mission, almost didn’t get any space espresso. The experimental, Italian-made espresso maker, dubbed ISSpresso using the International Space Station initials, was supposed to arrive in January, but didn’t get to orbit until April because of a shipment backlog.

How did she like the space brew? She didn’t say on Twitter, but she was all smiles for the cameras and gave a thumbs-up. It had to beat NASA’s instant coffee, drunk by straw from a pouch. The espresso actually is brewed in a clear pouch, behind the closed door of the boxy coffee maker, and that’s how Cristoforetti and NASA crewmate Scott Kelly first sampled it.

Cristoforetti later switched to the small, pitcher-like zero-g cup, a new American-made item.

Italy’s 120-year-old coffee maestro Lavazza and the Turin-based engineering firm Argotec, which teamed up on the space espresso project with the Italian Space Agency, were thrilled to see their 260-mile-high results.

“Today the International Space Station feels a little more like home,” Lavazza said via Twitter.

The space espresso maker uses small capsules, or pods, of espresso coffee. Fifteen coffee capsules flew up with the machine aboard a SpaceX cargo carrier, as well as five capsules for flushing out the —> Read More

Hawaii Volcanoes BioBlitz: Singing a Song of Earth

View of an 'i'iwi bird on akala or Hawaiian raspberry. Photograph by Chris Johns/National Geographic Creative.

More than a thousand scientists, explorers, grade school students, and members of the public will swarm across the volcanoes, forests and shoreline of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park next week, seeking to catalog every species they kind find. The ninth in a series of annual BioBlitzes hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society, the 2015 event is expected to be a celebration of biodiversity and Polynesian culture, a spiritual and scientific look at nature, and a teaching moment for all that there still is time to repair and appreciate our bonds with the Earth.

The concept of an annual BioBlitz in the run-up to the 2016 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. National Park Service was the brainchild of John Francis, National Geographic Vice President for Research, Conservation and Exploration. In this interview he talks about what’s so special about the BioBlitz in Hawaii and how everyone can use the experience, even by participating remotely, to find what the Earth means to them.

View of an ‘i’iwi bird on akala or Hawaiian raspberry. Photograph by Chris Johns/National Geographic Creative.

David Braun: This is the ninth BioBlitz in the series in the run-up to next year’s National Park Service centennial. Is there anything special about this one?

John Francis: We were hoping to do a BioBlitz in a highly diverse tropical setting, and of course there is Hawaii and the Virgin Islands to choose from. We were pleased that it could be Hawaii. But as we started developing the BioBlitz, we realized that the great opportunity is not with the highly biodiverse aspect of Hawaii so much as the cultural message that is tied to the land. We’re learning about the way Hawaiians, and people in general, can be closely —> Read More

Coastal Lights Threaten Coral, Study Says

coral night

New research adds pollution from artificial light to threats facing coral, also vulnerable to bottom-trawling, coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

Artificial light, mainly from the growing use of light-emitting diodes in coastal communities, affects how invertebrate marine organisms build ecosystems, according to a study published in the journal Biology Letters.

Larvae of marine invertebrates, including coral, sea squirts and keel worms, use light to find ideal habitats. But researchers at the University of Exeter, and Bangor University, both in the United Kingdom, found that artificial light from coastal development, shipping vessels and offshore structures confuses these organisms either by inhibiting or encouraging where they adhere themselves.

The researchers submerged 36 wooden planks into the Menai Strait and illuminated some with LED lights, then watched for 12 weeks to see how organisms reacted to the planks exposed to the light, versus those not illuminated.

They found the light pollution essentially “disrupt[s] the development of ecological communities in the marine environment,” Tom Davies, of the University of Exeter, explained in a statement.

“Nighttime artificial light represents an as yet unexamined disturbance that will probably alter the composition of sessile invertebrate assemblages by interfering with patterns of reproduction and recruitment among their constituent species,” the authors wrote.

sea squirt
Sea squirts are attracted to light, and new research shows how they can build communities on docks, boats and harbors as more coastal regions become polluted by artificial light.

By the researchers’ count, 22 percent of the world’s coastal regions are affected by light pollution. Organisms in tropical oceans are especially vulnerable, they said, as light can travel farther in clearer waters.

Davies said this is the first study to show how light can disrupt ecological communities. He emphasized that “further research is urgently needed —> Read More

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