Anika Chebrolu: 3M’s 2020 Young Scientist Challenge Winner

14-year-old Anika Chebrolu was just named the winner of the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge, an annual innovation competition hosted in partnership with Discovery Education. The eight-grader from Frisco, Texas earned the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ title for using in-silico methods to identify a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to develop a potential cure – in the form of a novel antiviral drug – for COVID-19.

When Anika entered 3M’s 2020 Young Scientist Challenge her original goal was to identify a lead compound that could bind to a protein of the influenza virus to develop a novel anti-influenza drug. But she switched gears when the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread across the globe. In an interview with CNN, the young scientist whose future goal is to be a medical researcher and professor explained, “Because of the immense severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, I, with the help of my mentor, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Of her reasons for entering the Young Scientist Challenge Anika said, “I have always been amazed by science experiments since my childhood and I was drawn towards finding effective cures for Influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year. I would like to learn more from 3M scientists to pursue my drug development and with their help, would like to conduct in-vitro and in-vivo testing of my lead drug candidate.”

In taking this year’s top prize, which includes the ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ title, a $25,000 cash prize, and a one-of-a-kind 2 day/1-night destination trip, Anika competed against nine other finalists.

Source: Women You Should Know Website

Sam the Trinity Fox

As the Irish Times reports:

Sam, the fox living on the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin, and who was seen wandering the streets of Dublin during the first lockdown, has found love and is pregnant.

Last year the health of the vixen was of concern as she appeared emaciated. With all restaurants and bars closed and the city centre all but deserted during the first lockdown she was deprived of scraps. She also developed mange on her tail.

In response, staff at Trinity College Dublin left out meat infused with an antibiotic for her and she has not looked back.

The latest development involving Sam the fox happened last month, when she was in heat.

She attracted two suitors, who have been named Prince and Scar by college staff, who fought for her affections.

Arctic Permafrost Releases More Carbon Dioxide Than Once Believed

Rising global temperatures are causing frozen Arctic soil— permafrost—in the northern hemisphere to thaw and release CO2 that has been stored within it for thousands of years. The amount of carbon stored in permafrost is estimated to be four times greater than the combined amount of CO2 emitted by modern humans.

Research results from an international team, which includes a researcher from the University of Copenhagen among others, suggests that the newly discovered phenomenon will release even larger quantities of CO2 than once supposed from organic matter in permafrost—a pool of carbon previously thought to be bound tightly and safely sequestered by iron.

The amount of stored carbon that is bound to iron and gets converted to CO2 when released is estimated to be somewhere between two and five times the amount of carbon released annually through anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions.

Iron doesn’t bind organic carbon after all

Researchers have long been aware that microorganisms play a key role in the release of CO2 as permafrost melts. Microorganisms activated as soil thaws convert dead plants and other organic material into greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

What is new, is that the mineral iron was believed to bind carbon even as permafrost thawed. The new result demonstrates that bacteria incapacitate iron’s carbon trapping ability, resulting in the release of vast amounts of CO2. This is an entirely new discovery.

“What we see is that bacteria simply use iron minerals as a food source. As they feed, the bonds which had trapped carbon are destroyed and it is released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas,” explains Associate Professor Carsten W. Müller of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management. He elaborates:

“Frozen soil has a high oxygen content, which keeps iron minerals stable and allows carbon to bind to them. But as soon as the ice melts and turns to water, oxygen levels drop and the iron becomes unstable. At the same time, the melted ice permits access to bacteria. As a whole, this is what releases stored carbon as CO2,” explains Müller.

The study has just been published in Nature Communications.

Absent from climate models

Although the researchers have only studied a single bog area in Abisko, northern Sweden, they have compared their results with data from other parts the northern hemisphere and expect their new results to also be valid in other areas of permafrost worldwide.

“This means that we have a large new source of CO2 emissions that needs to be included in climate models and more closely examined,” says Carsten W. Müller.

Even though carbon stored in permafrost has a major impact on our climate, researchers know very little about the mechanisms that determine whether carbon in soil is converted into greenhouse gases.

“The majority of climate research in the Arctic focuses on the amount of stored carbon and how sensitive it is to climate change. There is a great deal less of a focus on the deeper mechanisms which trap carbon in soil,” says Carsten W. Müller.

Researchers remain uncertain about how much extra carbon from soil could potentially be released through this newly discovered mechanism. Closer investigation is needed.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Green New Deal Polling

Green New Deal Polling:

Green New Deal Very General Summary: The proposal would achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by creating millions of green jobs and investing in a new, clean-energy infrastructure.

Research shows that age strongly predicts support for the Green New Deal, even controlling for several variables like party, ideology, and race. One wonders if this is because young people, unlike older generations, must contemplate living through the worst effects of climate change a few decades down the line.

Polling Question: “Would you support or oppose a Green New Deal to end fossil fuel use in the United States and have the government create clean energy jobs? The plan would be paid for by raising taxes, including a tax on carbon emissions.”

Reference: Millennials as ages 18–37, Generation X as 38–53, baby boomers as 54–72, and Silent as 72 or older.

Note: “Data For Progress” who conducted the poll is a progressive think tank.

#GreenNewDeal #ClimateChange

Cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity

Today in Science history —> On this day 104 years ago, Albert Einstein presented the paper “Kosmologische Betrachtungen zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie” (“Cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity”) at the weekly meeting of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. The pivotal research, often overlooked amid Einstein’s many accomplishments, applied his newly minted general theory of relativity to the universe as a whole. The study of cosmology would never be the same again. Despite the shortcomings of Einstein’s model universe, the paper was a major advance at a time when many astronomers believed that the Milky Way constituted the entire universe.

#Science #Einstein

SS Katherine Johnson

Considering the crucial role Katherine Johnson played in helping humankind reach space, it’s only fitting that a space craft would finally be named after her.

Northrop Grumman has announced that it will name its new NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft after the legendary NASA mathematician. The ship, which will bear the name the SS Katherine Johnson, will be used for an upcoming cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.

Bill Nye on Science Education

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Even more important and vital today:

“If we abandon all that we’ve learned about nature and our place in it, if we abandon the process by which we know it, if we let go of everything people have learned before us, if we stop driving forward, looking for answers to the next question, we, in the United States, will be outcompeted by other countries…We have to embrace science education. We have to keep science education in science classes.”

~ Bill Nye in 2014

Apollo Disaster

Today in Space History —> On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.

Above are the charred remains of the capsule interior after the bodies were removed: