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Ferreting out the Details of Reproductive Cloning

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison  Elizabeth Ann, the first cloned black-footed ferret taken on Jan 29,2021. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP. Although all births are special and joyous occasions, on December 10, 2020, researchers celebrated the birth of an extraordinary ferret kit. Elizabeth Ann, born from a domestic ferret surrogate, is not biologically related to her birth mother. She is a clone of the endangered black-footed ferret, a wild US-native species. The ferret she was cloned from died in 1988. Elizabeth Ann is the first US-native endangered species to be cloned. The black-footed ferret was thought completely extinct due to habitat loss until a small colony was discovered in 1981. Conservationists engaged in a captive breeding program to preserve the species but only seven females were able to reproduce meaning that 40 years later all the approximately 1,000 remaining black-footed ferrets have a limited gene pool. The lack of genetic diversity leaves the population susc
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UW-La Crosse professor creates ‘My Nuclear Life’ podcast, exploring the intersection of nuclear science and society

  Nuclear science first penetrated American consciousness with the building of the atomic bomb. It has become both a beneficial and destructive force that influences many aspects of human life from energy, to the environment, to medicine. Yet this field of study —that peers into the atomic nuclei — is something people generally don’t teach or talk too much about. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL) Physics Professor Shelly Lesher is working to change that. Lesher launched a new podcast, “My Nuclear Life,” in December that explores the intersection of nuclear science and society through interviews with historians, policymakers, and other experts. “I wanted to share my love for physics and the excitement of the field with the public, and I hope they become excited about physics too,” she says. Episodes of the podcast series cover topics such as: nuclear sanctions, the start of radium therapy to treat cancer, and the beginning of the environmental movement in the U.S. They don’t

How Bananas Make Radiation Ap-peel-ing

  By: Hannah Pell On March 7, 1995, Gary Mansfield, a health physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, sent out an email to members of the RadSafe nuclear safety mailing list. The subject line read: “Banana Equivalent Dose.” “Some time ago (when I almost had time to do such things), I calculated the [radiation] dose one receives from the average banana,” the email begins . Bananas contain the radionuclide K-40, a naturally occurring isotope of the element potassium (K). So, bananas are indeed radioactive, and Mansfield wanted to know how much radiation is in one “reference banana.” His rough calculation amounted to approximately .01 millirem. (Put another way, that's 1/100 of the average dose from a 3-hour airplane trip ). Mansfield continued: “Would love to go into more detail, but have to get back to our DEADLY Human Radiation Experiments (i.e., eating bananas).” Mansfield could have just as well replaced ‘bananas’ with potatoes, red kidney beans, broccoli,

Radio Signals from Proxima Centauri

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Parke Radio Telescope detected unnatural signals from the region around Proxima Centauri on April 29 2019. Photo by Stephen West. Scientists at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have detected a narrow band of radio signals coming from a narrow area around Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor star at 4.2465 light-years away. Observed on April 29, 2019, the signal dubbed Breakthrough Listening Candidate 1 (BLC1) was detected at a frequency of 982.002 MHz with little scatter which makes it a candidate for a technosignature, a sign of intelligent life. Radio signals are naturally produced by various stellar and planetary bodies due including our sun and Jupiter however these occur over a broadband of frequencies. The needle-like thin signal is difficult to explain by natural processes. Of course, the signal could be from intelligent life; it could be our own signal. Humans produce huge amounts of radiation from WiFi, cellphones, sate

How to SciComm, According to a Physics Blogger

  By: Hannah Pell  With instantaneous communication and access to far more information than any of us could ever know or need, it’s important that there are people we trust to clearly explain the messiness of the world around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has especially demonstrated the challenges of disseminating complex scientific research to the general public. For these reasons alone, there is certainly no time like the present to get involved in science communication. This week, I’ve been asked to offer my advice for how to write about science. I’m not going to break #scicomm down into “10 Easy Steps” or organize quick tips in a bulleted list because, well, I don’t think it’s that simple or straightforward. Unlike in physics, there is no formula to optimize a piece of writing; I can’t plug and chug my way through a blog post. In my view, effective communication is a nuanced reflection of our varied experiences; whatever we choose to write about and however we do it are fundamental

Perseverance Rover's New Home

  By Allison Kubo Hutchison Elevation map of the Jezero Crater, landing site of the Perseverance Rover. NASA/Tim Goudge Located on the Northwest side of Isidis Basin, Jezero Crater’s lay undisturbed except for dust storms and meteorite impacts for countless eons. Jezero Crater is an uneven half-circle where the Northeast side is worn away. There are countless craters like it on Mars, yet Jezero was selected over 30 other candidates as the new playground for NASA’s Perseverance Rover. In the future, it may become the most studied site on Mars when the samples from Perseverance are returned to Earth in a future sample return mission scheduled to launch in 2026 and return to Earth in the early Thirties. What makes Jezero Crater so special? Currently, there is very little liquid water on Mars but in the past, billions of years ago, Mars’ climate and atmosphere could sustain liquid water. Jezero Crater was once a large stately lake. Although the water is gone, today we can detect tra

The “No” Theorems: Physics’ Unbreakable Rules

  By: Hannah Pell Physics  Physics tells us a lot about what we can do. We can use it to predict the motions of the stars to the most fundamental constituents of matter and nearly everything in between; physics can be a powerful tool for us to realize new possibilities beyond what we’ve known before. However, sometimes it can be just as helpful to know what we can’t do. Just as there are rules that govern our daily lives limiting what’s permissible — no talking in the library; no running by the pool; no shirt, no shoes, no service — so too there are restrictions on what’s permissible in the physical world. Many of these rules can be grouped together simply as the “no” theorems. No-Go Theorems and Quantum Information Theory  A “no-go” theorem in theoretical physics is, well, exactly what it sounds like — a theorem describing a situation that is not physically possible. In mathematics, the way to show that something cannot happen is to argue a proof of impossibility , which is actu