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Crashed Israeli lunar lander could have spilled 'water bears' on moon
Tardigrades – commonly called "water bears" – were among the payload of an Israeli lunar lander that crashed into the moon in April.
- An Israeli spacecraft carrying tiny animals called tardigrades crashed onto the moon in April.
- It's unclear whether humans would be able to revive the tardigrades, which were in a dehydrated state.
- Tardigrades have a unique protein that enables them to survive intense levels of radiation.
There are no humans currently on the moon. But it's very possible that other Earthly animals exist right now on the lunar surface, following the crash of an Israeli lander in April.
The washing-machine-sized spacecraft – Aerospace Industries' Beresheet – was on a mission to deposit what was basically a digital time capsule on the moon. It contained a primer on humanity and its achievements: thousands of books, DNA samples, textbooks and the secrets to David Copperfield's magic tricks. It also contained thousands of dehydrated tardigrades – microscopic animals, commonly called "water bears," known for being able to survive extreme conditions that prove fatal for nearly all other known lifeforms.
But on April 11, 2019, Beresheet's gyroscopes failed and it crashed into the moon.
"For the first 24 hours we were just in shock," Nova Spivack, found of Arch Mission Foundation, which seeks to create "a backup of planet Earth," told Wired. "We sort of expected that it would be successful. We knew there were risks but we didn't think the risks were that significant."
The team knew the lander was toast. But subsequent analyses revealed that the lunar library likely survived the crash, meaning the tardigrades might have too. Tardigrades possess the rare ability to essentially stop their metabolism and enter a dormant, desiccated state. Although these tiny creatures only live for a few months, some have been put into a dormant state for 10 years and then were successfully revived. One was even revived after 30 years.
Tardigrades have also survived in this state in space – the first animal to do so. In 2007, Russian astronauts exposed groups of tardigrades to the vacuum and intense radiation of low-Earth orbit for 10 days. Back on Earth, scientists successfully revived 68 percent of the tardigrades. In 2011, an Italian crew conducted a similar experiment, finding that cosmic radiation "did not significantly affect survival of tardigrades in flight, confirming that tardigrades represent a useful animal for space research."
How are they able to withstand such intense levels of radiation? In a 2016 study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that tardigrades express a unique protein – called "Dsup" – that effectively shields DNA from radiation. Surprisingly, it may be possible to someday give astronauts this rare ability.
"Once Dsup can be incorporated into humans, it may improve radio-tolerance," geneticist Takekazu Kunieda, co-author of the 2016 study, told Gizmodo. "But at the moment, we'd need genetic manipulations to do this, and I don't think this will happen in the near future."
It's unclear whether the tardigrades on the moon survived the crash, and, if so, whether humans will be able to revive them. But given the extreme places where tardigrades have survived and been discovered, it's definitely possible.
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The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."