John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

Name: John Ellis “Jeb” Bush

bush

Jeb Bush at Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 2015 by Michael Vadon.

Party Affiliation: Republican

Government Positions Held: Governor of Florida (1999-2007)

Education: B.A. in Latin American Studies from University of Texas at Austin

Stance on:

Science Research Funding: Recently, Bush declared his support of a “long-term spending initiative” on infrastructure projects and research and development. Bush went on to say “As we’ve cut back with NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding and other types of research funding, we lose the initiative to cure diseases. And I think this is an appropriate role for government.” Furthermore, Bush has described himself as “a space guy” and would seek to increase funding to NASA. However, Bush is pro-life and has historically opposed funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Climate Change and Alternative Energy: In an interview with Bloomberg BNA, Bush acknowledged that the climate is changing and human activity has contributed to it. However, he criticizes the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for creating job loss, despite claims that it will not negatively impact the economy, and he asserts construction of the Keystone Pipeline is “a no brainer”, despite concerns from environmentalists. Ultimately, Bush believes in creating “market access” to renewable energy companies, but maintains that “ [t]he federal government should not be dictating what types of power should be used where.”

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):  On stage at the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Bush came out in full support of the use of GMOs to improve crop production and opposed GMO food labeling. He stated “I think [food labelling is] a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.”

STEM Education: Bush believes more should be done to keep STEM graduates in the U.S. after graduation. He suggests making work visas more accessible to STEM graduates to encourage foreign students to enter the U.S. job market. Additionally, Bush has a well-documented history of supporting common core and school choice. A more complete overview of Bush’s stance on education can be accessed here.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Bush has described Obamacare as a “monstrosity” and vows to repeal it, if elected. His alternatives include a “transition plan” for those currently on Obamacare, proposed tax credits for those in need of a catastrophic health care plan, and less accountability on businesses to provide health insurance to employees.

Vaccines: Bush has stated that “parents ought to make sure their children are vaccinated.” His  statement suggests that it is not the responsibility of the government, however, Bush has not clearly stated a position on the government’s role in ensuring children are vaccinated.

Summary: In general, Bush seems to be supportive of the scientific community. His eagerness to fund research programs, like NIH and NASA, his support of GMO research, and his willingness to extend work visas in the STEM fields are encouraging positions. However, Bush’s stance on key climate change issues are at odds with environmentalists and he remains ambiguous on the government’s role in mandating vaccines.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
AnthonyBarrasso_AvatarANTHONY BARRASSO IS THIRD YEAR GRADUATE STUDENT. CURRENTLY, HE STUDIES RETINAL DEVELOPMENT. ANTHONY’S CAREER INTERESTS INCLUDE CANCER RESEARCH, EDUCATION, AND POLITICS. OUTSIDE OF LAB, HE LIKES TO PLAY WITH MY DOG AND EAT DELICIOUS FOOD. FOLLOW ANTHONY ON TWITTER @BARRASSO67
Advertisements

Supergirl: Can Super Strength Really Exist?

Supergirl_(title_screen)

Opening credits for the TV Show. TM & © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved. © DC Comics

With a renewed blockbuster movie franchise and a new television show, Supergirl, premiering this week, the House of El has seen renewed cultural relevance and popularity. CBS’s new Supergirl series focuses on Superman’s younger cousin Kara Zor-El, who arrives on Earth as a young teenager and grows up on a Kansas farm before trying to make her way in the city as a young adult (sound familiar?). Inspired by her famous older cousin, she takes up the “family business” and puts her Kryptonian superpowers to use as a crime-fighting hero.  Supergirl possesses all the same powers as Superman; super-strength, near invulnerability, enhanced senses, freeze breath, heat vision, and of course, flight (as well as a host of other powers stemming from creative uses of these core powers, depending on the storyteller). Most stories have these powers originate from a combination of Earth’s yellow sun and lower gravitational pull and leave it at that, but what if we take a closer look and try and explore ways you could actually develop some of these superpowers as explained through modern science?  For our purposes today, we will take a look at one of the most iconic Kryptonian powers: super-strength.

“Stronger than a locomotive!”

Super-strength is a fairly common staple of comic book heroes and heroines, and resonates well with some of our basic human instincts: to be strong enough to defend ourselves and our loved ones from threats as well as make some everyday tasks much easier. As I mentioned earlier, Supergirl’s strength is derived from yellow star sunlight and Earth’s lower mass. To achieve super-strength, or at least “superior” strength, half of this is actually plausible. We know that if we were to go to a planet with a lower mass than the Earth, we would feel less of a gravitational pull. This would allow us to perform athletic feats not normally possible on Earth. For an example, look no farther than astronauts visiting Earth’s moon. The force of gravity on the Moon is 1/6 that of Earth. That means a 150 lb. woman would only weight 25 lbs. on the Moon! Human musculature is adapted for life on Earth, so for a time, you could perform superhuman feats on the Moon. The problem is, the human body eventually gets used to the lower gravitational pull and your muscles and skeletal system begin to degenerate. This means that Supergirl would probably rather quickly lose her super-strength if Earth’s lower mass was the only factor. However, losing the gene that is involved in the regulation of muscle growth can have interesting effects on the body. Myostatin is a protein that normally inhibits muscle growth and keeps muscle from over-developing. When it was lost in mice (as well as a breed of dog called whippets, and a breed of cows called Belgian Blues) the muscle mass doubled, and strength  increased. . The lack of a muscle growth inhibitor paired with lower gravity could explain a Kryptonian’s great strength, and perhaps counteract the effects of muscle degeneration! This is a bit faulty though, as neither Superman or Supergirl is depicted as having that much of an increase in musculature.

So, is super-strength really possible? Sure, to a certain degree and from a certain perspective though probably not to the degree depicted by Supergirl. With modern advances in biology and engineering however, who knows? Maybe one day we can all out-muscle a train!

The author:
Brown%2cRogers-biopicRogers Brown is a 4th year developmental biology graduate student. He is interested in becoming a science educator when he “grows up”, and spends his free time exploring science fiction and fantasy in various media.  

 

Help Us Save Science: Vote!

We are a science advocacy and education group, so as Science ACEs, we try not to take sides in politics. We work to give you the facts so that you can make your own informed decision. However, this ASAP Science video about “The War on Science” struck a chord for us, and we want to share with you why.

On top of sharing our love of science with you, we are all actively involved in research. We work in labs on issues including cancer, obesity, and viral and bacterial infections, performing research which could have positive impacts on our lives. We see first-hand the state of science on a daily basis. Today, we are talking about something that we do not see often in the media: research funding. Some of your tax money helps fund major discoveries such as understanding how genes make us fat or water on mars. But we have a major problem: Science everywhere is hurting.

Federal research funding is being cut at every turn, even as the costs to do research are increasing. In 2014, only 19% of the over 27,000 research grant proposals submitted to the National Institute of Health were funded, down from 32% in 2001. These federal grants are one of the largest funding sources for research in the United States. For us, this means the research money we do have is tight, and the path to future funding looks bleak. It makes us uncertain of not only our own future, but that of our research. Some have seen labs completely shut down due to loss of funding even though they were run by scientists doing incredible research. We are scared.

What does this mean for you? Fewer new discoveries to help us fight cancer, the obesity epidemic, or the next Ebola. Cuts to NASA mean we may never make it to Mars. We love science, and we love that what we do helps people, but if funding cuts continue, we are fearful for what will happen. You have a huge potential to make a powerful difference by voting. As scientists, we urge you to think about science when you vote at local, county, state and the national levels. Please help us help science.

 

The author
ScienceAces1Biotechie is a third-year graduate student studying metabolism and cell biology. Her career goals include academic research as well as science education and advocacy. When she is not in the lab, she can be found reading, exploring the city, or baking awesome snacks for her fellow ScienceACEs. Follow Biotechie on twitter @biotech_babe

Ben Carson

Name: Ben Carson, M.D.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Government Positions Held: n/a
Career Outside of Politics: Neurosurgeon
Education: Residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, M.D. from University of Michigan, B.A. in Psychology from Yale University

Stance on:

Science Research Funding: Despite spending his career publishing research in collaboration with scientists, Dr. Carson has remained fairly quiet on the issue of research funding. However, his views on the use of human embryonic tissue in research have been a hot topic in the media. Although Dr. Carson claims to be pro-life and asserts “there is nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue”, he has co-authored a research paper that used embryonic tissue from aborted fetuses and maintains he did nothing wrong. The only other research-related topic Carson has taken a public stance on is his strong support of NASA, which he promises to get “off the ground”.

Climate Change and Alternative Energy: Dr. Carson has dismissed climate change as a product of natural cyclic periods of cooling and warming, and even asserted that the discussion is “irrelevant”. In that same interview, Dr. Carson suggested the “right thing” to focus on is challenging government programs, like the Environmental Protection Agency, “to find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources.” Furthermore, he supports the Keystone Pipeline and in his 2012 book, America the Beautiful, he promotes “tapping into our own resources” to gain petroleum independence.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):  In an interview with Rural Town Hall, Dr. Carson expressed his support of food labeling for the anti-GMO crowd, but admitted that, in general, GMOs are safe and a product of advancing science.

STEM Education: Dr. Carson has not discussed STEM education directly, but has been vocal about education in general. Specifically, Dr. Carson is strong proponent of school choice and has voiced concern for the current public education system.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Dr. Carson is not a fan of the Affordable Care Act. He even went so far as to equate it to slavery. However, unlike many of his republican colleagues, Carson will not repeal Obamacare until a suitable replacement is in place.

Vaccines: In the second GOP debate, Dr. Carson made it clear that vaccines do not cause autism. However, his support of vaccines is not without reservation. “Vaccines are very important. Certain ones,” Dr. Carson said. “The ones that would prevent death or crippling. There are others, there are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases.”

Summary: Dr. Carson’s support of NASA is promising, but his indifference towards climate change, GMOs, and wavering support of vaccines concerns the scientific community. Overall, Carson has not made science a priority in his platform, and has failed to propose any specific policies that would aid the scientific community.

About the author:
AnthonyBarrasso_AvatarANTHONY BARRASSO IS THIRD YEAR GRADUATE STUDENT. CURRENTLY, HE STUDIES RETINAL DEVELOPMENT. ANTHONY’S CAREER INTERESTS INCLUDE CANCER RESEARCH, EDUCATION, AND POLITICS. OUTSIDE OF LAB, HE LIKES TO PLAY WITH MY DOG AND EAT DELICIOUS FOOD. FOLLOW ANTHONY ON TWITTER @BARRASSO67

The Brain

the_brian

The Brain with David Eagleman. Copyright PBS. Obtained from here.

Neuroscience is continually moving forward, with new discoveries being made every week about how the brain works and how it alters our perception of the world around us. However, with research article titles like “Regulated Dynamic Trafficking of Neurexins Inside and Outside of Synaptic Terminal,” fully grasping the current state of the field can prove difficult. PBS (The Public Broadcasting Service) aims to help clear up some of the confusion with their new series The Brain with Dr. David Eagleman, which premieres tonight.

Dr. Eagleman, a neuroscience professor at Baylor College of Medicine, will take viewers through a 6 part exploration of the brain and its many functions. Much like its PBS counterpart Cosmos did with physics, The Brain will delve into concepts that have been exciting and puzzling researchers for decades, but in a way that is easy to understand for even the most fledgling neuroscience enthusiasts.

If you want to let your brain get better acquainted with itself, tune in to PBS tonight at 10 PM .

The author
ACES PhotoAsante Hatcher is a third year graduate student interested in pursuing a career in scientific policy and advocacy. His interests include, but are not limited to, cooking, reading, sports, videogames, and watching re-runs of the 1988 Crystal Light Aerobics Championship.

Bernie Sanders

Science ACEs is doing a series profiling the 2016 presidential candidates with a special focus on their stances on key science issues our country will face in the coming years. Today, we’re looking at the Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders.

Name: Bernie Sanders

Party Affiliation: Independent. Running for nomination from the Democratic Party

Governmental Positions Held: Mayor of Burlington, VT 4 terms 1981 – 1989. Congressman from Vermont 1991 – 2007. Senator from Vermont 2007 – present

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of Chicago

Stance on

Science Research: Senator Sander’s voting record supports research using embryonic stem cells to cure disease, but also to ban human cloning which could have led to better petri dish models of disease. As for NASA, Sen. Sanders is in general supportive of NASA but has voted to decrease its funding in the past.

Climate Change and Alternative Energy: Sen. Sanders accepts climate change as scientific fact calling the politicization of climate change “absurd.” He says that The United States must take charge in preventing further climate change by shifting away from fossil fuels and investing in renewables like solar and wind. His voting record shows frequent support of the EPA and moving tax incentives from oil to renewables

STEM Education: Senator Sanders stands against No Child Left Behind claiming that it only teaches kids to take tests and takes no stance on Common Core but voted to allow the federal government to mandate its use by the states. Sen. Sanders opposes the use of vouchers and instead focuses on improving public education accessible to everyone.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Sen. Sanders supports the ACA, but calls it a start requiring more to ensure affordable health care for every American.

Vaccines: Sanders says that vaccines obviously work and save lives.

Internet: Sen. Sanders takes a strong stance for saving net neutrality making sure that information remains accessible to all.

Summary: Senator Bernie Sanders is an ally to scientific causes. He may not support some scientific agendas such as more funding for NASA due to the budget balancing.

THE AUTHOR:
2013-12-04 14.06.58BRYAN VISSER IS A 2ND YEAR GRADUATE STUDENT STUDYING DNA REPLICATION. HE PLANS ON MAKING A CAREER OF SCIENCE ADVOCACY WORKING AT A MUSEUM OR IN WASHINGTON. HE ALSO ENJOYS BOARD GAMES AND BALLROOM DANCING.

Defining Death: Why Arrow Learns to Love the Lazarus Pits

Arrow -- Image Number: ARR_S4_FIRST_LOOK_V4 -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as The Arrow -- Photo: -- JSquared Photography/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Arrow is property of the CW network, copyright 2015. Green Arrow is a property of DC comics, copyright 2015.

(Note: the following contains spoilers for the third season of Arrow)

The TV show Arrow starts up this week, coming back for a fourth season following the superhero Green Arrow. The show has generally tried to take a realistic approach to the adventures of the Green Arrow, but there have been a few notable exceptions (even discounting the Flash). One of the most interesting departures from realism in the show is how they handle death, or sometimes lack thereof.

‘Death” generally refers to the end of vital functions associated with life, but can be further broken down scientifically and medically. Biologically dead, refers to when a body is completely “unresponsive, even to ordinarily painful stimuli, showed no movements and no breathing, as well as none of the reflexes that are usually included in a neurological examination… [and] a flat reading on the electroencephalogram (EEG) and lack of blood circulation in the brain.” Biological death can also mean “ permanent cellular damage, resulting from lack of oxygen, that is not reversible.” Beyond biological death, there is what is also known as clinical death, which is “cessation of blood circulation and breathing, the two necessary criteria to sustain human and many other organisms’ lives.” Another consideration or a defining characteristic of death is the end to all brain activity/function, including both higher functions as well as activity in the brain stem. This characteristic is important for legal terms, such as “brain dead.” Clinical death and brain death occur before biological death, and can be in some rare instances reversible.

As far as Arrow goes, there are two main deaths that play around with the notions of what it means to be dead: the death (and recovery) of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, and the death (and resurrection) of Thea Queen. In the case of Oliver Queen, his death occurs after being stabbed through the abdomen, and falling from a large cliff. The explanation from the show for Oliver’s recovery from death is that his body fell into the snow, and was in a cold or hypothermic state of preservation. In addition, “healing” herbs are given to revive and restore Oliver to health. It appears that in this case, Oliver could be in a state of clinical death, and his recovery, while improbable, has at least some basis in science.

It has been shown that the application of cold and anesthetic can preserve brain function and prevent the decay of neurons of the brain, even after blood flow slows or ceases. Resuscitation after clinical death can occur if the conditions of death allow and treatment is applied promptly. So Oliver’s recovery from his death is possible, though does push the boundaries of possibility.

Thea’s recovery from death is another matter though. The legal definition of biological death includes (in part) that the cease of vital signs have occurred for 12 or more hours. In the show, Thea is killed, and then after an indeterminate time, her body is flown across the ocean to Nanda Parbat to the mythological Lazarus Pits. During this time, it appears that the body is kept at normal temperatures and no special preservation methods are used, meeting the legal definition of biological death.  When the body is placed into the Lazarus Pits and Thea is revived, with only psychological side effects remaining from the period of death. So this places this death purely into the realm of “comic book” death.

Arrow tries to take a more grounded approach to the adaptation of the comic book source material than many similar television shows or movies. In these instances however, the show is more true to its comic book roots.  Death serves as a challenge to be overcome, or an instance to show how vital the main character is to the setting of the show. It will be interesting to see how the show handles death and other aspects, as it draws upon more fantastical elements of the comics with an expanding universe.
The fourth season of Arrow premieres tonight.

The Author:
tyler_pictureTyler is a PH.D candidate studying biochemistry and gene therapy. In addition to science advocacy, he is interested in biotechnology/biomedical industries, and how they can be related to public health.

The Flash is Back for Season 2: So What Exactly is a Multiverse?

In a world where superheroes are often portrayed as dark and gritty, The Flash on the CW acts as a beacon of hope, and a reminder that superpowers are awesome. For fans of the show, myself included, this upcoming season is even more exciting as it will be the first time the DC multiverse has been portrayed on television.  

Cover of The Flash vol. 1, 123 (Sept, 1961).Art by Carmine Infantino, pencils, and Murphy Anderson, inks. All DC Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1961 DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The DC multiverse refers to the collection of alternate universes where the stories in DC comics (and now television) occur. While the relationships between these universes have been changed over the years, the multiverse actually started with the Flash. Originally during the Golden Age of Comic Books (1930s-1950s) the Flash was a man named Jay Garrick. During the Silver Age of Comic Books (1956- 1970) the character of the Flash was rebooted as Barry Allen. In 1962, Barry Allen traveled to the world of Jay Garrick in the famous comic book “Flash of Two Worlds”. This comic book established the idea that Barry Allen and the Silver Age heroes existed in what was known as Earth 1, while Jay Garrick and the Golden Age heroes existed on an alternate universe known as Earth 2. Together these two universes were the beginning of the DC multiverse.

While a multiverse may seem like an idea from science fiction, the concept does exist in high energy physics. However, there are many different types of multiverse theories in existence, reflecting different areas of research. Even the scientists that believe alternate universes exist can debate over which theories are correct. As there are too many to easily summarize here, I will just focus on the theory related to the Flash comics and show.

In “Flash of Two Worlds” Barry Allen travels to the alternate earth by vibrating his molecules at a specific frequency. The idea is that each of the alternate earths vibrates at a different frequency, thus they can exist in the same physical location while being separate from each other. This makes me think of a parallel universe theory known as the Many Worlds Interpretation. In quantum mechanics, the subatomic world, which is looking at the particles that make up your atoms, is probabilistically deterministic. This means that we can’t be quite sure exactly where the particles in your atoms are at any given moment, we just know the probability of where they might be.  Let’s pretend that there are only two states that an atom can exist in, State 1 and State 2. Under the Many Worlds interpretation, there must be two universes, Universe 1 where the atom is in State 1 and Universe 2 where the atom is in State 2. These two universes split apart from each other, and although they take place in the same space and time, the two universes can not interact.

As a result of this, ever decision you make generates multiple universes based on the different possible outcomes. For instance, let’s say you debated between 3 pieces of fruit for breakfast this morning. Under the Many Worlds Interpretation, there now exist universes where you ate an apple, an orange, or a banana. Maybe these universes are very similar, maybe they are very different. It depends on the outcome of the decisions.   

For the Flash TV show, we are not yet quite sure what type of alternate universe is being introduced. Based on the show previews, people appear to travel between universes as a result of the singularity from Season 1, basically a wormhole. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, the first season of the Flash is on Netflix starting in October.)  Think of wormholes as essentially a “shortcut” through space or even time (as seen in the Season 1 finale). As our favorite mechanical genius Cisco Ramon would probably say on The Flash, “Like Stargate”.  While a wormhole could allow for time travel, it could also allow for travel between alternate dimensions.  

I end with a reminder that I am a biologist, and encourage you all to talk to your local physicist today if you want a more complex explanation. I suppose there is a universe where I choose to study Physics, or English, or any other subject, but that is not the one we are living in. As you research parallel universes, you might start imagining how life might have turned out different, or at dark moments, how life might have been better. I encourage you all to not forget the important message that The Flash teaches.  Don’t look back, and keep running.

 

The author:
Slide1The Motley Advocate: I am a Christian, a biologist, a fiction writer and an amateur at many other things. My articles are often some combination of these elements. I don’t have a twitter but you can e-mail me through the Science Aces e-mail (science.aces15@gmail.com) .

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”: How scientifically accurate is The Martian?

martian_image

Image from @MartianMovie

QUICK FACTS:

Movie Title: The Martian
Genre: Science fiction
Based on: The Martian by Andy Weir (2011)
Release date: October 2, 2015
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara,Kristen Wigg, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: Botanist turned astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is on a mission on Mars in 2035.  After a fierce storm, his fellow astronauts and NASA think he’s dead and strand him on Mars without any communications and very limited food. The next scheduled mission to Mars is four years away. So Watney is “going to have to science the shit out of [it]”.

With a catchphrase like that how could we not cover this movie on our blog?

But how valid is the science in this movie?

Making Oxygen
Movie: The movie uses as “oxygenator” to convert the atmosphere from Mars into breathable gas.
Real-World Science: NASA calls it MOXIE and it’s completely real and scheduled to be used in NASA’s real-life 2020 mission.

Cultivating Food
Movie: Watney has very little food but his botany skills help him grow a crop of potatoes.
Real-World Science: NASA has studied the soil on Mars and while Watney would have had to remove or neutralize salts, perchlorates and hydrogen peroxide, it contains the critical biologically–active form of nitrogen needed to grow plant life.

Finding Water
Movie: Watney burns hydrogen liberated from rocket fuel to get water risking a massive explosion.
Real-World Science: NASA confirms that they have evidence of water on Mars. Watney would have only had to dig up some ice or boil some dirt.

The Martian dust storm that stranded Watney
Movie: Watney is stranded after he’s thought to have died in a storm of  “hurricane-force winds”.
Real-World Science: Mars’s atmospheric pressure at the surface is 0.6% of Earth’s. Winds could reach hurricane speeds, but they would not move enough air mass to cause damage. In fact, a 150-mph wind on Mars would feel like a breeze.

As scientists we expect to have to suspend our skeptical nature when watching a movie or TV show so it’s really exciting when the entertainment industry can get (mostly) factual science in a big budget film that an audience without any science background can enjoy and be excited by.

I look forward to seeing it this weekend. Maybe I’ll see you there!

About the author:
Morra_ACEs_AvatarChristina is a Ph.D. candidate studying the interactions between gut bacteria and the human intestine. She is pursuing a career teaching undergraduates.