Space is an unforgiving environment. Anyone who has ever seen The Martian or read up on the health hazards of weightlessness knows the risks astronauts take when they sign up for an extended stay on the International Space Station: from bone density and muscle loss to exposure to space radiation, the time spent on the massive station (its solar array wingspan is around 240 feet long) -- exciting though it may be -- is not without risk. But what about germs?
When Immune Systems And Solar Systems Collide
A great and many studies have been performed on how the human body reacts to extended time spent in the near-weightlessness of space, including how gravity impacts and distorts cellular fluids. For example, earlier experimentation found that spaceflight boosts the virulence (the disease-causing potential) of the food-borne germ Salmonella; since space travel already weakens astronaut immunity, this places significantly more risk on the health of the astronauts.
"By studying the effect of spaceflight on the disease-causing potential of major pathogens like Salmonella, we may be able to provide insight into infectious disease mechanisms that cannot be attained using traditional experimental approaches on Earth, where gravity can mask key cellular responses," explained Cheryl Nickerson, who made the discovery with her colleagues.
Vaccines In Space
Vaccines operate by pre-activating T-cells; they are able to react faster to block development of the disease because these killer cells are already geared up to protect us from invaders. Our immune systems are bolstered as a result, and -- as Nickerson proved -- are still a necessity even on the ISS, where astronauts are exposed to fewer pathogens.
The most common (and one of the most important) is the influenza vaccine: it's estimated that as many as 710,000 flu-related hospitalizations have been prevented since 2010 due to the efficacy of inoculations, and since there are no hospitals on the ISS, their administering is vital to its residents' health. By studying how the human body, living in zero gravity, responds to immunizations, further developments can be made regarding long-term space travel; the better we can safeguard the immune systems of astronauts, the longer they'll be able to stay in space.
Advancements That Could Take Us To Mars
Compounding on this immunology finding is the work of Dr. John Campbell, a lecturer at the University of Bath, and his team: they've discovered that living in space does not alter an astronaut's levels of B-cell immunity, the white blood cells that create antibodies to fight off infections. B-cells are companions to T-cells, so their unaltered state offers extra protection from outside invaders.
"Our results are good news for current astronauts aboard the ISS … and for all future astronauts who will attempt long-duration space missions," said Dr. Campbell, hinting at the possibility of a trip to Mars; since the flight takes three years to complete (around three times longer than the U.S. current record set by astronaut Scott Kelly), this kind of knowledge could take us one step closer.
Each day, more than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 throughout the United States. And while many seniors benefit from certain financial and medical protections, that doesn't always safeguard them from harm. But one tech startup is hoping to help seniors stay safe.
One of the biggest physical risks for many seniors is the seemingly simple slip-and-fall incident. According to recent data, nearly 9,500 fatalities among older Americans are attributed to trips and falls every year, with approximately 20% to 30% of those who fall experiencing severe complications and even disabilities as a result. And because over 50% of all falls take place within the home among older adults, one company is vowing to take action to ensure the home is truly a haven for many seniors.
Cherry Labs created an in-home alarm and surveillance system, known as Cherry Home, that's powered by artificial intelligence to do just that. It can detect and track residents using microphones, compasses, vision sensors, and complex algorithms. Its creators claim that the AI system can actually distinguish different people by their faces, limb lengths, hair colors, clothing, postures, and gaits.
The idea here is to be able to prevent a fall before it actually occurs, so the information captured by the system is transmitted in real time through video footage and audio recordings (which can include instances of stumbles, cries, shouts, and other activities) over a Wi-Fi network to a separate PC equipped with a backup battery. The computer saves and analyzes that data before delivering it to caregivers and medical professionals so that they can ascertain whether the seniors in question might benefit from further treatment. If and when a more serious fall or other incident occurs, the system will send an alert to family members, nurses, and other caregivers to ensure the individual can receive help.
Although police respond to 38 million alarm activations every year, an AI system like this would probably be more precise -- or at least more helpful -- than a false alarm notification through a home security system. Backers evidently felt the same way, as Cherry Labs announced they'd received $5.2 million in funding from GSR ventures. That funding will allow for a pilot program partnership with TriCura, a mobile app platform geared towards information sharing between caregivers and agencies, and TheraCare, a service that provides caregivers for those in need.
While it isn't clear whether the average senior or familial caregiver will be able to afford the Cherry Home System (its tentative costs can range up to $2,000 for coverage of six rooms, plus a monthly subscription fee), the startup isn't the only one developing similar tools to help older populations. They are, however, providing services that other platforms currently aren't. For one thing, the video captured is processed locally (meaning it never leaves the premises) and the identity of the seniors in these videos will be protected through unique means. It's also one of the only tools that could monitor changes in behaviors, rather than just major falls, to help caregivers be more effective at their jobs and ensure seniors receive the care they need when no one else is around.
Max Goncharov, CEO and co-founder of Cherry Home, noted in a statement: "Understanding human behavior has a long list of applications, from home security to in-home senior care to the overall goal of making smart homes totally autonomous. But improving senior care is arguably one of the most important areas for technological improvement."
Your home is your family's sanctuary, so you should have the tools to keep it as safe as possible. Start this year with safety at the forefront of your mind by participating in National Radon Action Month this January. The Environmental Protection Agency promotes this country-wide month of radon awareness and action to help protect against the dangerous gas.
Every year, over 36 million kids around the U.S. play organized sports. Kids love playing soccer, baseball, basketball; even swimming is the fourth most popular sporting activity in the United States. Despite some recent controversy, one sport remains at the top of millions of Americans' list: football.
Last year alone, the number of people ages six and above who participated in tackle football amounted to roughly 5.22 million. Whether it's a little kid running around aimlessly on the field or a professional in his 10th season, at some point, every player's goal is to make the NFL Pro Bowl. People love watching their favorite NFL players compete against their other favorite players every year.
No party is complete without festive food for the occasion, even if your guests dressed in their best ugly sweaters for the event. If you want to serve up the best samples of the season, try these festive shots and drinks that put the "spirit" in Christmas spirit.
We're toward the end of holiday shopping madness. Across the country (and the web), people are fighting to find the best deals for toys, gadgets, and other must-have gifts before Christmas Eve. Buying for your spouse, your young children, and your siblings can be easy. But buying for a large adult son in his 20s or 30s? That's a little trickier.