Thursday, January 18, 2018

So, about that flu shot

Some people aren't getting it this year - amidst reports that in some areas it may provide only 10% protection (I'd argue that 10% is better than 0%).

The flu vaccine varies greatly in effectiveness from year to year because it is simply not feasible to vaccinate against every flu strain. Vaccine manufacturers have to guess...well before flu season...which strains will be most predominate in which areas. Sometimes they do a better job than others.

Which is why the work being done by a group led by researchers at UCLA and also involving Chinese scientists is important. They think they might have found a vaccine that protects you from more strains of the flu.

It works by priming your T cells to detect the flu rather than creating antibodies. Not only would this protect from more strains but it would last more than a year.

Unfortunately, it might also not be feasible for people with subprime OR overactive immune systems (people with a lot of allergies, for example).

But it's an interesting approach and I for one would love to skip the annual shot. And love better protection even more.

(In the mean time, get your flu shot).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So, who's in Michigan?

Quite the light show, according to my Michigan friends (of whom I have a number).

Yes, it was a meteorite. And yes, it hit, in several pieces, a bit northwest of Detroit. It was most likely a "stony" asteroid - that is to say, a rock. It produced seismic effects (which are not considered an earthquake, but which measured about 2.0 on the Richter scale). The estimated size? About that of a typical cargo van.

And no, we didn't see it coming. We're still practicing that.

No injuries or damage, just some spectacular fireworks courtesy of outer space. I'm kind of jealous.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

So, about that "Solo" movie

Despite all of its controversy, it's on track, although the trailer hasn't dropped yet. (Believe me I've been looking).

What has dropped is the blurb, and it appears we're going to find out what, exactly, Han did to get Chewbacca owing a life debt. Still hoping we'll also find out who really owns the Falcon. (Well, we all know it's Rey Solo NOW, but...)

Monday, January 15, 2018


Sold another story to Third Flatiron - it's entitled "Skywalker" and will be in their "Monstrosity" anthology.

It's mostly a humor piece, oddly enough. Albeit in a rather dry way.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Flightless bats

It's not just birds that lose the ability to fly if it's no longer a survival advantage. Apparently bats do it too.

Specifically, burrowing bats, which are now extinct but lived in, surprise surprise, that center of biological weirdness Australia. And its satellite New Zealand. No offense to Aussies or Kiwis, but life there took some weird turns.

And no, I didn't know they existed until now. Live, learn, get new information.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Memory Virus

Okay, so this one is real freaky to think about.

There's a protein in our brains called Arc. It has something to do with how we store memory. By we I mean all "higher animals" on earth. Humans, horses, birds, some reptiles - but not fish.

But Arc is very, shall we say, strange. In fact, it looks like...HIV.

Not only that, it acts like HIV. It infects brain cells as a way of transmitting information. It's entirely probable that Arc is a virus that we incorporated into our selves millions of years ago...and that a viral infection is responsible for the way mammalian brains work and ultimately for, well us.

In other words intelligence, memory and consciousness could be, quite literally, a disease. One that some primitive vertebrates caught and which developed into a symbiosis and ultimately became part of them.

What does this mean? In practical terms, Arc's virus-like behavior might lead to new treatments for Alzheimer's.

In philosophical terms? Science is, once more, stranger than fiction.

(And, story idea I have time for one).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What the heck is Hypatia?

So, there's a little rock in Egypt causing all kinds of fun. Why? Because it doesn't match the natural composition of anything in the solar system.

Nicknamed Hypatia, it has pure aluminum (extremely rare in the solar system), compounds that appear to predate the sun (and compounds that don't)!

It's a meteorite, that much we know, but from where?

If it's from the solar system...and doesn't predate the sun...then it may challenge planetary formation theories again.

Alternatively, it could be just that old.

Or it could even have originated in another solar system with a different stellar composition.

Who knows. Funny how a little rock can cause so much trouble.