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Seasons Affect MS Symptoms

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At the age of 45, Anne Rowling died from complications of multiple sclerosis (MS). Her daughter, J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, recently announced she was donating £10 million ($15.4 million) to form a MS and neurodegenerative disease research center at the University of Edinburgh. Scottish people suffer from the disease at a higher rate than others and the disease seems to impact more people living in northern regions. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital discovered that the seasons impact MS symptoms, causing them to seriously consider the role environment plays in causing the disease.

MS is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys myelin sheaths, a fatty material that protects the nerve endings in the brain and the spine. This lessens the brain's ability to communicate and often causes scarring and lesions, leading to permanent disability. (The image at left, from Wikimedia user Marvin 101, is a photomicrograph of a demyelinating MS-Lesion.) There are no known cures for the disease but many physicians have been able to slow the disease's progression.

Researchers led by Dominik Meier examined MRI scans of 44 participants. The scientists asked participants, between ages 25 and 52, to undergo eight weekly scans, then eight scans every other week, followed by a six-month check-up. Each person averaged 22 scans. When each scan was taken, researchers recorded weather information such as temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation levels. The study took place from 1991 through 1993 before pharmaceuticals that regulate MS relapses entered the market.

Meier and his colleagues found that more brain lesions occurred from March to August. According to the paper, published in Neurology, 310 new T2 lesions were found in 31 patients and the researchers discovered more lesions during periods of higher levels of solar radiation.

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science
Why a Howling Wind Sounds So Spooky, According to Science
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Halloween is swiftly approaching, meaning you'll likely soon hear creepy soundtracks—replete with screams, clanking chains, and howling winds—blaring from haunted houses and home displays. While the sound of human suffering is frightful for obvious reasons, what is it, exactly, about a brisk fall gust that sends shivers up our spines? In horror movie scenes and ghost stories, these spooky gales are always presented as blowing through dead trees. Do bare branches actually make the natural wailing noises louder, or is this detail added simply for atmospheric purposes?

As the SciShow's Hank Green explains in the video below, wind howls because it curves around obstacles like trees or buildings. When fast-moving air goes around, say, a tree, it splits up as it whips past, before coming back together on the other side. Due to factors such as natural randomness, air speed, and the tree's surface, one side's wind is going to be slightly stronger when the two currents rejoin, pushing the other side's gust out of the way. The two continue to interact back-and-forth in what could be likened to an invisible wrestling match, as high-pressure airwaves and whirlpools mix together and vibrate the air. If the wind is fast enough, this phenomenon will produce the eerie noise we've all come to recognize in horror films.

Leafy trees "will absorb some of the vibrations in the air and dull the sound, but without leaves—like if it's the middle of the winter or the entire forest is dead—the howling will travel a lot farther," Green explains. That's why a dead forest on a windy night sounds so much like the undead.

Learn more by watching SciShow's video below.

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Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
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On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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