Recent solar flare, post-dinosaur mammals and women’s health


A mid-level solar flare erupts from the Sun

The Sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on April 1, 2022, peaking at 5:05 a.m. ACDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly monitors the Sun, captured an image of the event.

Solar flares are giant bursts of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun’s surface that can last anywhere from minutes to hours. They are caused by the tangling, crossing, and rearranging of magnetic field lines near sunspots, areas that appear dark on the Sun’s surface.

An intense solar flare can interfere with our radio communications, power grids, and navigation signals here on Earth, and also pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

This flare is classified as a Class M flare, which is one-tenth the size of the most intense flares – Class X.

New genetic tools to help potential rescue of Victoria’s endangered state bird

Scientists have made significant progress toward saving the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix) by deciphering the genome of birds and creating a high-density genetic map that could help improve their genetic health.

By the 1980s, the helmeted honeyeater population had fallen to just 50 birds in Victoria, Australia, although thanks to habitat restoration and a captive breeding program, this number had increased to around 250 individuals .

Unfortunately, this population is mostly made up of closely related birds with low levels of genetic variation. Inbreeding is therefore common and the small population size could lead to the accumulation of harmful genetic mutations.

A “genetic rescue” program is being created to introduce genes from a different subspecies, and now the risk of honeyeaters losing local adaptation can potentially be avoided thanks to new research published in GigaScience.

The new genome sequence and genetic map can be used to guide the process of “mixing” DNA from outside the helmeted honeyeater’s current gene pool. Together, these tools can also inform selection decisions, allowing for a much higher level of precision.

“Helena”, the helmeted honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix) whose genome has been sequenced, at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (Victoria, Australia). Credit: Nick Bradsworth.

Women’s health research disproportionately focuses on reproduction

Research on women’s health remains disproportionately focused on the reproductive years – especially pregnancy – and very little on the leading causes of illness and death in women, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed the primary health content of research articles published in six women’s health journals and five leading general medical journals in 2010 and 2020, categorizing the primary medical area and life stage at study.

They found that in 2010 just over a third (36%) of women’s health content in both sets of journals focused on reproductive health, but by 2020 that figure had risen to just under half (49 and 47% for each type of journal, respectively).

“Overall, we found that many diseases that actually contribute to poor health and significant death among women – such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and chronic lung disease – were poorly covered in women’s health publications,” says lead author Laura Hallam, of The George Institute for Global Health, Australia.

“While women’s life expectancies are generally longer than men’s, women have fewer healthier years and high rates of disability in old age, so it is important to look at the health and well-being across the lifespan and to study diseases that are more common in older people, this could have a greater impact on women.

The research was published in the Women’s Health Journal.

Mammals put their muscles before their brains to survive in a post-dinosaur world

Instead of growing bigger brains, prehistoric mammals bloated themselves to increase their chances of survival in the 10 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, a new study has found.

Although much is known about the evolution of the brains of modern mammals, until now it was not known how they developed after the catastrophic impact of an asteroid 66 million years ago. . Now, scientists have discovered that the body mass of mammals was increasing at such a rapid rate that there was actually a decrease in relative brain size during the Paleocene (about 66 to 56 million years ago).

They did this by examining computed tomography (CT) scans of newly discovered Paleocene mammal skulls, as well as other mammal skulls from that period, to measure brain size and how it changes over time.

Research suggests that being tall was initially more important than being very smart to survive the post-dinosaur era. Brain size began to increase again in mammals during the Eocene (about 55 to 34 million years ago). The researchers suggest that this could have helped increase the chances of survival when competition for resources was much greater.

The study was published in Science.

Crania and virtual endocasts inside the translucent skull of Paleocene mammal arctocyon on the left and Eocene mammal hyrachyus on the right
Crania and virtual endocasts inside the translucent skull of Paleocene mammal Arctocyon (left) and Eocene mammal Hyrachyus (right). Credit: Ornella Bertrand and Sarah Shelley.

Most face masks do not expose wearers to harmful levels of PFAS

Face masks are important tools in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and during the pandemic people have been wearing them for long periods of time. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are added to many products to repel fluids, so some companies might add PFAS coatings to their face masks, but this has not yet been thoroughly investigated.

Now, new research has found that most face masks tested contain low or negligible levels of PFAS, with the exception of one marketed to firefighters, which may only pose health risks in certain situations. The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

The scientists used mass spectrometry to measure PFAS in nine types of face masks: one surgical, one N95, six reusable cloth, and one heat-resistant cloth mask advertised to firefighters. Next, the team estimated the dose of PFAS that could cause health problems from chronic exposure, based on previous animal studies. According to calculations, regular wearing (10 hours a day) of surgical, N95 and cloth masks would not present a risk.

The highest levels in the fire mask exceeded the dose considered safe, but only when worn for a full day (10 hours) at a high level of activity.


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