Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lovely that lede was...

In Discover Magazine, an interesting lede proses a question, breaking the common lede rules:

"What if researchers could reboot a misfiring immune system? That is the intriguing possibility raised by stem cell transplant specialist Richard Burt. He is pioneering a new treatment for autoimmune disorders, one in which patients’ immune systems are suppressed and then replaced with an infusion of their own immune stem cells, filtered out from their blood. These then grow into all types of blood cells, including the white blood cells of the immune system."

Although the lede asked a question, it explained who-Richard Burt, what-a new treatment for autoimmune disorders. She also went in further to explain what an autoimmune disorder is, how- the new treatment will work. The fact that she included this information drew me in as a reader. Her lede was unusual and explained important information early on.

The rest of the article, although short was still informative. She explained in more depth about autoimmune disorders, and how the new treatment came about, and how it may work in the future.

Stop Biting ME!!!

Every summer at sleep away camp, my flesh became a feasting ground for those local country mosquitoes. That famous OFF spray that my mother packed never seemed to help, but it did reduce the number of bites. I should be thankful, more than a mosquito has never bitten me, but just how do bug repellents work?

Mosquito's are attracted three ways to humans. They are attracted to body heat; body temperature may rise during emotional or physical activities. They are also attracted to the carbon dioxide Humans exhale making people more susceptible after exercising or exerting themselves, releasing more carbon dioxide. Last, they are attracted to lactic acid, secretions our skin produces. In some species, female mosquitoes can only hunt for human blood using the scent of lactic acid.

The common active ingredient found in OFF and many other bug repellents is DEET. DEET, or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, is the leading active ingredient world wide against insects. They distort the receptors on the mosquito's antennae, and make the skin unappetizing for future bites. It has also caused health concerns with rare adverse affects including headache, disorientation, nausea, confusion, irritability, difficulty in sleeping, convolutions and death. Products containing a low concentration of DEET are effective and usually safe when used as directed. Adverse effects are incredibly rare in low concentrations, but may occur in prolonged use or if ingestion occurs. Picaridin, the active ingredient found in Cutter Advanced Picaridin Repellent, (chemical name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester), works similarly to DEET but has been used as a safer alternative with a "fresher lighter scent". It inhibits the mosquito's ability to locate the human by interfering with a specific olfactory receptor on the antennae. Other active ingredients are Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, p-Mentane-3,8-diol, Methyl nonyl ketone, IR3535 (Avon Skin-So-Soft) and Oil of Citronella.
For area or clothing usage, popular ingredients are Permethrin, Allethrin and Metofluthrin.

What I found more interesting was WHY mosquitoes bite in the first place. Once having 37 mosquito bites (and a few choice words) after sitting in the park for about two hours at dusk, I took a trip to my local hospital getting a Benadryl shot for my widespread allergic reaction. My friend, however, had only one or two bites on his arms but rarely ever attracted mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes (males are not capable of biting) bite in order to produce the blood lipids they need to lay eggs. Like many species, these females are also selective about what their optimum blood choices are at a distance of 50 meters away. Scientists have found that some people who may process cholesterol more efficiently than others will have the by-product on their skin, thus attracting mosquitoes. Genetics also accounts for 85% of our susceptibility to the biting. The next time I get an awful mosquito bite ready to swell, I must remember to thank my mother.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EWWWWW!!!! Whats that next to my bag?!?!

So after a pleasant walk home from campus, I opened up my front door and turned on the light. In my hallway there was this hideous creature crawling out of the wall next to my bag. After screaming and allowing the hives to melt away I decided to take this picture:

So I found out that this creature is called the House Centipede. Disgusted out of my mind, I searched a couple of sites looking for the fuzzy multi-legged visitor. It's scientific name is Scutigera coleoptrata.

Its identifying colors are yellow, black and white. It size is approximately 34 to 35mm. They have 15 pairs of legs and males usually have longer antennae in the back. I found out that they are attracted to damp moist areas, porches, and may sometimes arrive in a bathtub drain (I thought the last one was kind of rude).
As someone who is afraid of insects (or anything else that crawls or slithers) I was not happy to see this creature lurking in my hallway. However, I did find out something rather interesting about them. Centipedes often keep away other nasty pests such as cockroaches, and moths away. Perhaps these visitors may be helpful after all, still, I would not appreciate the peaking creature while in the tub!

My Favorite Lede

The Science Times consists of some interesting ledes grabbing New York Times' readers attention into the science world. The science journalist must capture the reader's attention, while creating a sense of urgency and concern for the new science discovery.

So what makes a good lede?

My Journalism professors have instilled certain values a good lede should contain. Here are some common elements that most have agreed upon:

  • The lede should be exciting and capture the reader's attention
  • It should explain what the story is about, and why we should care.
  • The five W's, and/or How if it is applicable, but also not to wordy
  • Should not start off with a quote, or question.

One particular lede in the Science Times, by John Tierney captured my attention:

"If you’re not rich and you get sick, in which industrialized country are you likely to get the best treatment?"

To read the complete article click here

This lede breaks most rules, but does so in a way that intrigues the reader to keep reading. The lede does not tell any of the five W's, but simply asks a question that the reader must ask themselves.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Years Found!

Tool making has been one of the many things to distinguish the intelligence of our species from others. Previously, the earliest man-made tool dated back to Africa about 1.5 Million years ago but in Europe, only half a million years ago. Scientist have wondered what took so long for tool making to develop in Europe yet an article in the Science Times by Henry Fountain has reported recent discovery of stone-age tools in Spain dating a lot further than previously expected. Fountain explains that the location in Spain Estrecho del QuĂ­par contains a hand-axe dating 900,000 years old. The other location Solano del Zamborino dates a hand-ax at about 760,000 years old. Paleomagnetic dating allows scientist to use the minerals in rock and analyzing the polarity in them determining when the rock was formed.

The main question sparking this article "What took Europe so long for distinguished tools to be formed?" intrigued me the most. Perhaps it was Eurocentric thinking (the idea that European customs and belief's took precedence over non-European societies also belittling non-European customs) stimulated scientist to wonder how a group so advanced could be so behind. Any number of locations could have be inserted in the question "What took so long for distinguished tools to be formed at ___________", yet only Europe came to mind; I find that to be strange. My next question was what other locations were hand-axes found at and how far apart were they? Unfortunately, my answer could not be found in this article.

Besides the regrettably unanswered question, I found this article to be quite informative. It is always interesting when science corrects itself and updates the public about new discoveries. While the migration of the earliest humans (still a long lived debate of what should be considered "human") has been puzzling for years, scientist finally have proof to what made common sense for them, migrating to a neighboring continent should not have taken millions of years!