Category Archives: Science Communication

Collagen cannot be absorbed through skin!

The desire to stay youthful for many women has been consistent; hence keeping a youthful skin has also been a consistent concern. Thus it really disturbs me that the beauty market nowadays targets and takes advantage of these worries to sell skin products with false advertisements at shockingly expensive prices. FALSE advertisement, that’s right. Many different brands flaunt their new line of creams with this magical molecule “collagen,” which can apparently make skin plumped-up, smoother, and younger.

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This is complete nonsense. It is a cold hard fact that collagen molecules are just too large to be absorbed through tiny pores of skin. It will have no benefits to skin when it is being applied in such way. Let’s take a closer look at collagen.

Collagen

Collagen

 

Collagen itself is a protein present in all body’s organs and connective tissues and mainly functions to sustain tendons, cartilage, and skin. It provides firmness and elasticity to skin and thus making it true that increasing collagen levels in body will increase the chance of skin staying more youthful. This is the scientific reasoning behind those false advertisements.

However, it is critical to note that this is only true when we increase level of collagen by eating the right, healthy food or by taking collagen supplements, but not by applying those collagen-containing creams on our faces. Like I said before, collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the pores of our skin, and even if the skin could absorb them, we have to remember that collagens are proteins naturally made inside our body. They would be completely “dead” and inactive by the time we rub them onto the skin. The only reason why your expensive collagen cream feels nice is because it gives cream its consistency.

Let us not forget that including collagen in skin care products is just another way of marketing. This had been proven quite a while ago, but many still seem to be unaware of this. So remember this and do not waste your time and money on collagen-containing creams, everyone! Why don’t we all try eating more soy products, vegetables, and fruits instead?

 

By Sunny Sohn

Images/Video Sources:

Collagen image: http://eyeonicr.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/soft-tissues-and-logical-fallacies/

Fruits and Vegetables image: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-incredible-facts-about-eating-fruits-and-vegetables-that-you-probably-didnt-know.html

 

Something is going on while you are sleeping

Man sleeping. source: google image(free to share)

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, and it is considered as an activity as crucial to our health and well-being as eating. Sleep makes us improve our mood and feel more energized. However, there are a lot of unknown information and things going on while we are at rest.

First, what is going on while you are asleep? When we’re sleeping, neurons in the brain fire nearly as much as they do while we are awake. That means whatever happening during our sleeping hours is quite important to a number brain and cognitive functions.

These are some reasons why you need enough sleep and they describe what our brains do while we are asleep – and it suggest you to get some shut-eye tonight.

1. Rememers / Learns how to perform physical activities.

Your brain stores information into a long-term memory in sleep spindles, which signal processes that refresh our memories. This process help storing information specifically related to physical tasks, such as sports, driving, and dancing. These short-term memories are transferred from the motor cortex to the temporal lobe, where they become long-term memories.

2. Create and strengthen memories

Location of hippocampus in the brain source: wikipedia common

While you are asleep, the brain keeps forming new memories linking them from old ones to more recent memories. This process happens during both REM and non-REM sleep periods. Lack of sleep can cause a significant effect on the hippocampus, and affect in memory creation and consolidation. Due to this fact, all nighter would lose their ability to learn new study materials.

3. Decision making

Decision making: where to go sources: google image( free to share)

The brain can process information and prepare for actions during sleep. A recent study found that the brain processes complex stimuli while we are asleep, and utilize this information to make some decisions while we are awake.

4. Clears out toxins

Research at the Univiersity of Roschester found that during the sleep, the brains of mice flush out damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration, which could potentially have the effect of accelerating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Therefore, our brains would not have enough time to flush out toxins if we do not get adequate time of sleep.

Parkinson’s disease effect on various parts of brain. sources: google image(free to share)

Why do we need sleep? and What is going on in our brains during the sleep?

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Jack Yoon

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The Beginning of The Universe

As we all know, the universe started from a Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory states that the universe started from a “singularity”, a point where space and time came into existence. This point of origin was hot and dense. Theoretically time came into existence at 5.39 * 10^-44 seconds, which is known as the Planck’s Time: the smallest unit at which time can exist. At the Planck’s time all four fundamental forces (gravity, strong force, weak force and electromagnetic force) were combined into one unified force.

Between 10^–43 seconds to 10^–36 seconds gravity separated from the unified force and this released energy. Furthermore, the strong nuclear force separated from the unified force between 10^–36 seconds to 10^–32 seconds and this triggered for the universe to go under an exponential expansion known as cosmic inflation. The following image illustrates the expansion of the
universe.

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This image illustrates the expansion of the universe from a singularity. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, the electromagnetic and weak forces are separated at 10^-12 seconds. The separation of the four fundamental forces released a lot of energy. The following image illustrates the separation of the four forces.

Four forces

One strong unified force is separated into four fundamental forces at the given times and temperatures. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The energy released form the four forces was converted to matter (Energy=mc^2 where m is mass and c is speed of light) and antimatter. Matter and antimatter was continuously created and through collisions being destroyed. At the end there was a small excess of matter over antimatter.

Then the temperatures were cooled and matter stopped being produced. The universe became a thick dense fog consisting of mostly hydrogen and some helium and lithium.

The universe is expanding even today. The most important proof for the expansion of the universe is that distant galaxies are moving away for us. The only thing expanding is space itself, the space between us and other galaxies is increasing.

The following video complements what I have stated.YouTube Preview Image

Naqsh Fatima Bhangu

Bugs in the News

We are all familiar with the fact that our bodies do not belong to us alone. We provide homes for up to 1000 bacterial species that live in our skin, our saliva, and our intestines, just to mention a few of several locations. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there is also a wide variety of multicellular microorganisms such as yeasts and mites taking refuge within us, but how many of them are we aware of? Are there more species than we realize that are living right under our noses?

HairFollicle

Cross section view of hair follicle and sebaceous (oil) gland where face mites prefer to live. Source: Wikipedia – Sebaceous gland

It turns out that biologist Megan Thoemmes and her research team has recently found that face mites are indeed present under each and every adult nose, a recent CBC news article confidently – but questionably – reports. The two species found on human faces, Demodex brevis and Demodex folliculorum, are less than half a millimeter long, semitransparent, and either live within human pores or on hair follicles. The article reports that these creatures were found in all 253 tested adults of Thoemmes’s study, and so it is (rather pretentiously) suggested that the mites are universally existent on adult humans over age eighteen.

But isn’t the reporter jumping to conclusions?

Upon reading the original research paper, the answer is immediately clear. In actuality, there were 253 skin-scraping samples gathered, but only from nineteen participants, in contrast to the reported 253 adult participants. Extrapolating from 253 localized adults to the entire adult human population would be a hasty overgeneralization, let alone drawing conclusions from the actual sample size of nineteen. Moreover, an aspect that was completely disregarded in the article was that the participants sampled were chosen for their high apparent levels of skin-oil production, so perhaps the high frequency of face mites may not apply to everyone.

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Scanning Electron Microscope image of the underside of a face mite. Source: Wikimedia Commons – Category: Demodex

In an effort to draw interest to the news article (based on the interview available in the voice clip below), the reporter used conclusive language throughout to heavily imply that all adults are hosts to face mites. By selectively filtering out some information and accompanying inferences with subtle uncertainty, along with the misreport of sample size, the article appears to be believably conclusive when in reality it is distorted and misleading, even if unintentionally so.

An example like this serves as a much needed wake-up call. Whether you’re a scientist or simply someone desiring to gain some insight into recent scientific developments and discoveries, it is absolutely essential that nothing is accepted without question. It is easy to draw conclusions from headlines as they are presented, but if proper discretion is not taken, you may be misled more than you are informed. As for whether or not we all have mites on our faces, only time and careful research will tell.

An audio clip of the interview with Megan Thoemmes is available below. Notice that a hasty generalization is made right at the start within the first minute of the track:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dustin Woo

Do you listen to music while studying?

Do you listen to music while you study?

I bet some of you are currently doing that right now.

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Example of someone listening to music Source: Flickr Commons

Music is one of the effective ways to find pleasure. It is simple, easy and free (Unless you actually spend money downloading). Since I am all about finding pleasures in life, I have speakers hooked up in every single room of my houses.

Ever since music became a “must-have” for people, especially for students, there have been many studies regarding their affect on studying.

Some argue that listening to music while studying distracts one enough to make lose focus.

However listening to music such as Mozart, enhances synchrony of the firing pattern of our right frontal, left temporoparietalareas, and right temporal regions (just means it uses more parts of our brain), which is why this phenomenon is named “Mozart Effect“.

Try this next time you study!

YouTube Preview Image Cited: JaBig, “6-Hours Mozart Piano Classical Music Studying Playlist Mix by JaBig: Great Beautiful Long Pieces”. YouTube. YouTube, 15 May. 2013.| Web. 21 Sep. 2014.

Furthermore, a research from University of Dayton found that students performed better at spatial and linguistic processing if Mozart was playing in the background.

However, not all of us can handle these classical vocal-less music.

In a study in Taiwan correlating the work concentration level with background music, they separated groups of college students into three groups to test the affect of vocal music.

1) Listening to music while given the attention test

2) No music while given the test

3) 10 minutes of listening to music prior the test.

The experiment showed that the group that was allowed to listen to music prior to the test scored higher than the group that had no music at all, giving us an idea that music can gives us a supplemental effect increasing our attention level. As for the group that allowed music during the test, it showed a extremely high level of variation in the test scores, meaning even vocal music definitely affects our concentration level somehow.

From this, we can infer that different genre of music affects individuals in a very complex ways. It has been proven that vocal-less classical music has a positive effect on our brain function. However the effect of modern music or any other types of genre remains undefined. As a result, if you are someone wondering whether to listen to music while doing your homework, try it with and without. Neither I nor the researches made can give you a straight answer.

This is the song that I was listening to when I was writing this, maybe try this?? (warning: some are not in English, and contains lot of swearing)

YouTube Preview Image Cited: onstage 온스테이지, “빈지노 – Profile”. YouTube. YouTube, 1 Nov. 2012.| Web. 21 Sep. 2014.

If you found this article boring and not informative, let me know so I can switch the type of music I listen to.

By Jeamin Yoon

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“Turbocharged” Photosynthesis – Wait what?!

Plants convert the sun’s energy into food. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Photosynthesis is a process that plants and other living organisms use to convert carbon dioxide, water and light energy into food. Sounds pretty amazing, right? But that’s only the start.  Photosynthesis single-handedly supplies all the organic compounds and nearly all the energy that is needed for life on Earth. Simply put, without photosynthesis we would not be alive today. In recent years, a question that has often been asked is whether photosynthesis can be tweaked such that the process becomes faster and more efficient.

-Click here for all the intricate details of photosynthesis! Also, the process is illustrated nicely in this short animated film:

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Micrograph of a cyanobacterial species; Synechococcus elongatus. Source: L.A. Sherman and D.M. Sherman, Purdue University

Crucial to photosynthesis is an enzyme called Rubisco. This enzyme is required in the conversion of carbon dioxide to sugar. However, the Rubisco found in plants is inefficient. And so, a team of American and British biologists came up with the idea to “borrow” genes for Rubisco from a cyanobacterial species, called Synechococcus elongates, and genetically engineer them into plants. Formerly known as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria specialize in photosynthesis. Consequently, researchers claim that by meddling with Rubisco in crops, photosynthesis can increase in efficiency by up to 60%.

 

In the aforementioned experiment, published in Nature, the team of researchers transferred bacterial genes and proteins, including Rubisco, into the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. As a result, this new hybrid plant could convert carbon dioxide to sugar faster than normal strains of the tobacco plant. When asked how her team of scientists was able to accomplish this feat where other teams had failed before, biochemist Maureen Hanson at Cornell University pointed to the fact that her team also transferrd additional proteins to assist the foreign Rubisco.

tobaccoplant

A bacterial enzyme was delivered to a sample of Tobacco Plant; Nicotiana tabacum. Source: Rothamsted Research

With crop production technology being a hot field of research, the implications of this study are immensely important. While human population continues to increase at staggeringly fast rates, there are continuously more mouths to feed. “Hacked photosynthesis” may be one way to alleviate the looming problem.

You may be wondering… when will these super-efficient plants be in crop fields near you? Not as soon as you might think. While turbocharged photosynthesis works great in theory, in reality there are a few setbacks. One issue is that cyanobacterial Rubisco has a tendency to react with oxygen. Bacteria deal with this problem by incorporating a protective capsule, called a carboxysome, to ward off oxygen. However, plants lack this defensive shell and so the tobacco plant with bacterial Rubisco wastes significant amounts of energy. Naturally, scientists are currently working on ways for plants to create structures resembling bacterial carboxysomes.

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‘Turbo’ photosynthesis could redefine the way we farm crops. Source: Flickr commons, Uploader: Appe Plan

All in all, while the process of turbocharged photosynthesis has yet to be perfected, this scientific finding is a great leap in the direction of higher-yielding and faster-growing crops.

-Imran Mitha