A brief view of ventilators, and how the past is still applicable in the pandemic of today

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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

On average, a human adult sighs every five minutes. It’s not because we’re perpetually exasperated. Sure there are emotional sighs, but there are also physiological ones. We actually have to take those extra deep breaths — they’re crucial to healthy lung function. But we didn’t figure that out until we invented machines to help people breathe.

The first tank ventilator — basically a giant box you can put someone in to breathe for them — was invented back in the 1830s, but the most familiar iteration came about in the 1920s. This was the infamous Iron Lung — a phrase coined by an unknown journalist. …


During the course of your life, some biological attributes such as hair color change, but surprisingly, so can your blood type.

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Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

You were born with a blood type. Whether it’s AB positive, O negative, or anything in-between, that’s almost definitely the blood type you’ll have your entire life — almost definitely.

In some cases, your blood type can change. One reason it happens has to do with, of all things, cells inside your bones. Usually, when we’re talking about blood types, we use the A-B-O and Rh systems. This refers to different antigens, or markers, on the surface of your red blood cells. …


This means that you can watch their color change before your eyes as kittens

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Photo by Alex Meier on Unsplash

From a tiger’s stripes to a jaguar’s rosettes, to a tabby’s whorls, cats come in lots of different colors and patterns. Normally, we imagine that the way an animal looks is inherited from its parents — basic genetics stuff.

Sometimes, the origin isn’t so simple. Like, the coloring of some domestic cats is tied to their sex. That’s why orange cats are much more likely to be males, and calicos and torties are almost always female. But Siamese cats are especially interesting — because their recognizable coloration is actually dependent on temperature.

Animals get their dark color because their bodies produce melanin. Melanin is the same protein responsible for variation in human skin tone and making you tan. It’s produced thanks in part to the enzyme tyrosinase. Normally, this enzyme does its job pretty well. But in some breeds of mouse, rabbit, and cat — and even in some human cases — the enzyme doesn’t quite work the same. …


The closer we get to perfecting human likeness in games, the easier it is to spot problems with it

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Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro on Unsplash

Let’s start by delving into the theory regarding the uncanny valley. I’m sure some of you are probably already very familiar with this topic, but I’m always surprised to find how many people haven’t heard of it before, or who have heard of it but don’t know what it is.

Let’s start off with a little history lesson. The concept of the uncanny valley was introduced in the 70s by a Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori. …


As more elements get added to the periodic table, it gets closer and closer to being “full.”

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Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

With four new elements being named in 2016, the periodic table finally looks full. So it’s done, right? I mean, the periodic table is full. We’ve discovered all the elements up to 118, and filled in the whole bottom row. So there are no more elements to add, right?

Well, not exactly. Just because the table looks full doesn’t mean that it’s complete — it just means that we have to add another row. Or maybe more than one row, because no one’s really sure how many more elements can exist. …


Melted cheese is without a doubt betterr than plain old block cheese, and here’s why

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Photo by Klara Avsenik on Unsplash

It’s gooey, it’s savoury, and it’s oh-so-delicious. It’s on some of our favorite dishes, like pizza and nachos, and it can even make our least favorite foods taste better Yes, I’m talking about cheese. Or more specifically, melted cheese — because while cheese is delicious and all, a lot of people think the melted stuff is so much better.

That’s probably not a coincidence. There actually seems to be a scientific reason why people love melted cheese more than solid cheese. So the next time you’re reaching for those nachos — you can blame it on your biology. …


From bomb-sniffing to drug-sniffing, it seems like dogs can do everything. Turns out, cancer-sniffing is no different

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Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

Right now, as we speak, there exists a relatively inexpensive method for detecting certain early cancers with an accuracy rate of up to ninety-seven percent. You might even have one in your room with you right now home. It probably goes wild when you reach for a tennis ball or the doorbell rings.

Yes — we’re talking about the domestic dog. So why aren’t there domestic dogs trained to detect cancer in every hospital on the planet? It’s complicated. …


Everyone has heard of solids, liquids, and gases, but have you ever heard of things that occupy two at the same time

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Photo by 贝莉儿 DANIST on Unsplash

You’re probably used to the idea of a few states of matter. You’ve got solids, liquids, gases. At least, that’s what you see in everyday life. But scientists keep finding that elements can exist in other states in extreme environments. Last year (2019), research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described a whole new one called the chain-melted state where some elements are basically liquids and solids at the same time.

If you ask any chemistry teacher, the state of a substance depends on its temperature and the pressure that it’s under. As you heat things up or lessen the pressure, molecules begin to move more and spread out, causing solids to melt into liquids, and liquids to evaporate into gases. …


Could we have finally found the famous “Missing Link”

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Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Archeologists also uncovered something new: a new species of human. Way back in 2007, archaeologists found a human-looking foot bone in a cave on the northern side of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Researchers dated the bone to about 67,000 years old, which made it the earliest evidence of humans in the Philippines.

But it wasn’t clear what species of human this bone belonged to. So, they kept digging. From 2011 to 2018, excavations uncovered more human remains from the same cave. The study summarizing their findings, published in Nature magazine, last year, described teeth, hand and foot bones, and part of a femur. …


Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, but is it the tallest mountain possible?

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Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

At 8,848 meters above sea level, Mount Everest reaches further into the sky than any other peak on our planet. It’s often called the “roof of the world,” but it might also be pretty close to the ceiling — the upper limit of mountain height. See, a mountain can’t just rise indefinitely. There are limits.

Much of this has to do with how mountains form. Most major mountain ranges come about were two segments of Earth’s crust are crashing slowly into each other. Though the Earth’s crust is solid rock, it still changes shape under enough pressure — and when rock pushes up against a rock, you end up with what’s called crustal shortening as the plates squish together, and crustal thickening as the crust bunches and bulges like a carpet pushed against a wall. …

About

Travis Horan

My name is Travis, and I am a chemist working for the EPA. I’ve always had a love for science and writing and love sharing the things I find interesting!

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