Monthly Archives: April 2016

Scientists Discover Hidden Antarctic Lake Through Radar Images

As the use of overhead radar equipment reveals more and more about the planet, laboratory notebooks are filling up with speculations on what has been found. Just when people thought there was no undiscovered territory left in the world, scientists reveal that they have found what looks to be a subglacial lake in the Antarctic. Geographically speaking, this is huge. What is even bigger is the potential for new life forms to be found in the lake.

Hidden Antarctic Lake

Hidden in the Ice

Over the years, several scientific discoveries have been brought to light after exploring the ice. In fact, ice happens to be one of the things that preserves historic items the best. Lakes are no exception. Because the Antarctic offers subglacial lakes like this one, it makes it possible for previously unknown lifeforms to be found. The ice doesn’t just preserve things as they are. It also prevents those things from migrating to other places. Yet, life is one long process of development, so it is entirely possible that life forms that were never exposed to anything but this lake not only exist, but have gone through a significant evolutionary process in an undisturbed manner.

Location Challenges

The Antarctic has always been an area that has fascinated scientists. Left largely untouched by humans, it offers a glimpse into a world governed solely by nature rather than the hand of man. The reason for the lack of human involvement is the same reason that scientific research is such a challenge in this area. The cold and ice don’t allow for ease of survival or transportation. This means most of the gear and survival tools have to be brought in.

In the case of this “lake,” the location is about as optimal as it gets. It is located just 62 miles away from a research center, making it more accessible than most of the finds in the Antarctic.

Dimensions and Potential

This subglacial lake was seen from the air though radar images, so it is possible to predict the size of it. As information currently stands, it is thought to be about 87 miles long and 12 miles wide. That leaves plenty of room for life forms to develop, thrive, and evolve over millions of years. It might also mean that there are even more geographical finds when one gets below the surface. There may be things like caves and subglacial rivers that simply can’t be detected from the surface. For now, that’s all just speculation, but that’s half the fun of scientific research.

You can bet that scientists are vying for a spot in the research project that will follow this discovery. In fact, you can almost hear the pens scratching the pages of a scientific notebook as potential explorers prepare their questions and theories concerning this new geographical find. Chances are good that the ones who get to take a closer look won’t be disappointed. After all, this is an area largely untouched by man, and it isn’t every day that people get to catch a glimpse of nature left to its own devices.

Discover-Antarctic-Lake

How Earthquakes Might Trigger Faraway Volcanoes

There are several schools of thought about the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes. Scientists have long thought that there is a connection between the occurrence of high magnitude earthquakes and distant volcanic eruptions. Using scientific notebook charting and recording of various events, these teams are coming closer and closer to determining the relation and likelihood of such a situation.

For many, the thought of an earthquake occurring in one month and causing a volcanic erupting several months later miles away seems farfetched, but for many scientists in several different organizations this is a line of thought that deserves intense research.

Earthquakes

Mount Aso in Japan

Mount Aso, located in Japan, began emitting plumes of smoke indicating a small eruption just two days after a 6.2 magnitude earthquake 42 kilometers away. Long before this earthquake, Mount Aso had experienced much larger eruptions, but is it possible that this small eruption was triggered by the earthquake? Scientists say yes, but there is still a great deal of research that must be performed to accurately predict eruptions based on earthquakes.

How It Works

Essentially, earthquakes and volcanoes tend to occur in similar time frames simply because both occur at the level of tectonic plates. Often individual eruptions are preceded by minuscule tremors directly underneath. This is considered to be movement of the magma through underground chambers.

This “earthquake” action is an early warning signal of volcanic eruption that has been monitored by geoscientists, but is not what one would call a major earthquake. However, the presence of seismic activity far from the volcanic center being a preceding event is one that scientists are still working on.

Many times throughout history there have been large earthquakes followed by small eruptions at a location far from the epicenter of the earthquake. When you consider the intricate layering and movements of tectonic plates all around the Earth, it is entirely possible that a large disruption in one area would cause a corresponding eruption in another area.

Volcanologists have proposed that the sloshing of the bubbly magma underneath the volcanoes caused by faraway large seismic activity is what creates the eruption. This theory makes perfect sense; however, scientists have as yet been unable to accurately use this theory to predict eruptions, despite using laboratory research, magma chambers, and earthquake shockwaves.

In situations like this, nature is in charge, and scientists are simply able to record and analyze activity in order to seek a resolution. While knowing of a relationship between earthquakes and volcanic eruptions would help in predicting volcanic events, it would not enable anyone to prevent either from happening.

Thanks to detailed scientific notebooks and shared research, scientists are able to record and analyze happenings all over the world and determine which seismic events correlate with which volcanic eruptions. Because the earthquakes cause deep tremors in the plates that hold the Earth together, it may take several days or even months for those tremors to travel and slosh the magma underneath a volcano. This makes researching and finding correlations more of a challenge for scientists in the future.

In time, as more research is done related to this topic, scientists will have more concrete findings about the correlation between volcanoes and earthquakes.

Volcanoes

Scientists Search for 13 People to Help Solve Genetic Mutation Mystery

For all of the claims that 13 is an unlucky number, that doesn’t always appear to be the case. It’s been used to introduce horror movies and create panic in those who are superstitious, but today, it’s in more than one laboratory research notebook belonging to a number of scientists who study genetics. That’s because 13 people were found to have genetic anomalies, but show no symptoms of 584 serious childhood diseases.

Scientists would like to be able to do more research, but that may not be possible. Another oddity about the situation is that in order to treat those who are unhealthy, scientists find that they need to look to those who are healthy.

Scientific notebooks

Genetic Disease

Some diseases are transmitted though things like saliva and contact with other bodily fluids. Others are genetic, which means they have the potential to be handed down from one generation to the next. The issue becomes obvious when several generations experience the same symptoms of a certain disease. While there are treatments for many of them, not all of the diseases can be treated or cured.

That’s why scientists started to look at things on the genetic level. Why treat symptoms when you can prevent the disease itself? Better yet, why create something to treat a disease when the human body has already developed a sort of buffer for it?

Mutations with Responses

Not all people who have received the genetic material that causes a specific disease will end up with the disease. Scientists want to know how frequently that happens and what makes it happen at all. That’s why 30 scientists have been publishing their findings on the matter in the Nature Biotechnology Journal. Right now, those scientists would like to speak with just 13 subjects.

Using Existing Data

These scientists turned to genetic data that was already gathered, rather than gathering the data in their own lab. It’s a technique that is often employed in an effort to save time and money on research projects. They gathered the material with permission from the donors through several agencies that perform genetic testing.

The focus was on childhood diseases. The genetic information used belonged to adults. In this way, scientists could separate the people who had experienced symptoms from the people who had not, since the individuals were already beyond childhood.

Specifically, the search was on for genetic evidence of 874 genes that could indicate 584 medical conditions. The data was gathered from more than 500,000 genetic samples. Of those samples, 13 people demonstrated the genetic conditions for 8 diseases, but never showed any symptoms of having had the diseases in question.

There are strict laws that govern privacy as it relates to any kind of research and testing. Because the scientists had permission to use the material, but not permission to contact anyone who participated in the study, they are currently unable to move forward. Though their hands may itch to use their archival pens and document more information about these genetic events, they simply aren’t able to just yet.

However, if and when that becomes possible, they may be able to unravel the genetic secret to preventing the onset of a disease even when it exists within the genetic code.

Mutation-Mystery

The Science Behind the Earth’s Airglow

If you were to look in almost any laboratory research notebook that was used in the first year of a NASA employee’s term of employment, you might read terms like “airglow” and “Rayleigh scattering.” That’s because, like the average citizen, even new NASA employees aren’t always aware that airglow even exists, much less knows about the impact of Rayleigh scattering. As for the notebook, who wouldn’t be taking notes concerning their experience as a first year employee of NASA?

Scientific notebook

Airglow Defined

Some describe it as the Earth’s own radiance. It is a luminosity given off by the atmosphere of Earth. The glow is due to various factors, like the development of molecular oxygen and the reflection of sunlight off of the Earth’s surface. At about 60 miles away from the surface of the Earth, airglow can be seen in its brightest form.

Rayleigh Scattering

Rayleigh scattering has a lot to do with the type of airglow that can be perceived. For example, airglow is more sunlight dominant during periods of time that include muted Rayleigh scattering in the lower atmosphere. As sunlight hits the Earth’s atmosphere, it “scatters” off of molecules. This produces the effect known as Rayleigh scattering and is the reason that the sky looks blue as people look up at it. The process involves wavelength dependence that results in shortened wavelengths that produce this effect.

Types of Airglow

There are three different types of airglow. In the past, it wasn’t easy to see this phenomenon, but the VIIRS instrument has made it possible. Stationed on the Suomi-NPP satellite, it is able to observe Earth because of light that is both emitted and reflected from the planet. It is so powerful that it can see clouds over the Earth at night based on the luminescence produced by airglow. This level of detail can help scientists develop more information about the atmosphere itself, as well as its relation to the surrounding universe. The different types of airglow can help further the process.

Dayglow: As you might imagine, this type of airglow is heavily reliant on sunlight. Referred to as “sunlight dominant,” this is the type of airglow seen as Rayleigh scattering is muted in the lower atmosphere. It also involves resonance and the fluorescent process.

Twilightglow: This type of airglow does not illuminate the lower atmosphere. In fact, only the upper atmosphere is illuminated.

Nightglow: This type of airglow doesn’t have the same brightness of dayglow. At the same time, it is bright enough to outshine the starlight that is found in the night sky. This particular luminescence occurs because of solar radiation. When this radiation interacts with molecules in the upper atmosphere, the result is nightglow.

Without the VIIRS instrument, the world wouldn’t have the images that it now has of airglow. Whether scientists are adding this information to a scientific notebook or not, it is fascinating to understand how light is created in our atmosphere, to the extent that even the color of the sky itself is affected.

Lab notebook