Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events.
But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know:
1. When did Earth Day start?
The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought environmental issues to the forefront of public consciousness. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 22 million people across the country came out in support of environmental reform.
"That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America," Gaylord Nelson wrote in the April 1980 edition of the EPA Journal. "It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the nation.
"It showed political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang."
Since then, celebrations have only grown. This year, organizers estimate more than one billion people in 192 countries will participate in events the world over. The day is celebrated each year on April 22.
2. Is there a theme for Earth Day 2018?
This year, organizers are focusing on curbing plastic pollution.
"Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics," the Earth Day Network, which partners with tens of thousands of organizations in 192 countries to organize Earth Day events, said on its website.
The organization also said it "will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems."
3. How are people celebrating?
In Tokyo, thousands of people will attend beach cleanups, concerts, art exhibits, classes and other events coordinated by the Green Room Festival, according to the Earth Day Network. In India's Karnataka state, a "no plastic" event will feature workshops led by "organizations that are champions of environmental sustainability in fields including electric vehicles, solar power and zero-waste living," the network said. Cleanups also were scheduled in Palm Beach, Florida; New York; New Jersey and other locations across the United States and worldwide.
4. What are businesses doing?
Google marked Earth Day with a "video doodle" featuring primatologist Jane Goodall.
“It is so important in the world today that we feel hopeful and do our part to protect life on Earth," Goodall said. "I am hopeful that this Earth Day Google Doodle will live as a reminder for people across the globe that there is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that is beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm, to help protect species and their environments. And there are so, so many young people, like those in JGI’s Roots & Shoots program, dedicated to making this a better world. With all of us working together, I am hopeful that it is not too late to turn things around, if we all do our part for this beautiful planet.”
Apple also joined in on the celebrations, announcing on April 19 that "for every device received at Apple stores and apple.com through the Apple GiveBack program from now through April 30, the company will make a donation to the nonprofit Conservation International."
In addition, Apple "debuted Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhone to recover valuable materials," according to a company press release.
“At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives, said in a statement. “In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.”
5. How can I get involved?
There are multiple ways to get into the Earth Day spirit, from participating in a local event to changing your bills from paper to paperless. Here are some suggestions from the Earth Day Network:
Urge your local elected officials or businesses to make a substantial tree planting commitment by starting a letter-writing campaign or online petition.
Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible.
Pick up trash at a local park or beach.
Set up a screening of an environmentally themed movie. Consider supplementing the screening with a speaker who can lead a Q&A following the film.
Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for lung cancer. However, immunotherapy may be able to help double a patient’s survival, according to a new report.
Researchers from New York University’s Perlmutter Cancer Center recently conducted a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, to determine which treatments were most effective for those newly diagnosed with lung cancer.
To do so, they examined 616 people with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer from 118 international sites. The participants did not have genetic changes in the EGFR or ALK genes, which have both been linked to the rapid reproduction of cells.
About 400 of the subjects underwent pembrolizumab, a form of immunotherapy that helps destroy cancer cells; platinum therapy, a procedure that uses cell damaging agents; and pemetrexed, a chemotherapy drug that targets the lungs. The other 200 only received platinum therapy and pemetrexed with a saline placebo.
After analyzing the results, they found the risk of death was reduced by 51 percent for those treated with pembrolizumab, platinum therapy and pemetrexed, compared with those who only got chemo. Furthermore, those with the combined therapy also had a 48 percent decreased chance of progression or death.
Suresh Ramalingam, deputy director at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the finding is “very important” as “it moves the milestone forward.”
“This study shows that by combining the two treatments, you can maximize or even improve patient outcomes. From that standpoint, it does shift the treatment approach to lung cancer in a positive way,” said Ramalingam, who was not a part of the trial.
By using both approaches together, doctors can create a multiplying effect. During chemotherapy, cells die and leave behind protein. Immunotherapy activates the immune system, aiding its ability to kill any remaining cancer cells.
The NYU researchers did note there are severe side effects to the combination treatment, including nausea, anemia, fatigue and an increased risk of acute kidney injury.
However, Ramalingam believes the trial gives experts the ammunition to test the approach in many other cancers. He also said there are several ways to treat different types of the disease, and people should understand that some tumors may need to be tackled differently.
For example, he recently led a separate, large clinical trial that targeted lung cancer patients with the EGFR mutation, unlike the NYU analysts. As a result of his findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the use of a lung cancer pill called Tagrisso to those with the EGFR gene.
While it was initially only used for individuals whose lung cancer worsened after treatment with other EGFR therapies, Ramalingam and his team proved the medication almost doubled the survival outcome for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients with the EGFR mutation. In fact, it resulted in better outcomes than chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
“Given all these exciting advances that there are in lung cancer, patients should not settle for what’s been told,” Ramlingam recommended. “Basically get a second option or go to a major center that specializes in lung cancer to make sure they’re getting the cutting-edge treatment options that are out there.”
Pollution has negative effects on our health, but scientists may be able to better combat the issue with a plastic-eating enzyme they discovered accidentally.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently conducted a study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to examine the natural molecules and chemicals found at a waste recycling center in Japan.
During their assessment, they discovered that the enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, can “eat” polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the material used to make plastic bottles.
While they intended to better understand the structure of it, they actually engineered an enzyme that breaks down PET products.
“This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics,” co-author John McGeehan said in a statement.
The scientists said PET can persist in the environment for hundreds of years. The chemicals can seep into the soil, affecting the groundwater and infecting drinking water.
While the analysts called their discovery a “modest” improvement, they hope to continue their investigations to improve the enzyme with the help of protein tools. They said they believe their work will be used to industrially break down plastics in a fraction of the time.
“We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem,” McGeehan said, “but the scientific community who ultimately created these ‘wonder-materials’ must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions.”
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study, published in Science Translational Medicine on Tuesday, to explore factors that may contribute to cancer recurrence post-surgery.
For further analysis, the scientists explored the immune system’s response during the healing process. It works to cure surgical scars by triggering cells throughout the body to help with the repair. However, in doing so, it may also recognize and rouse undetected tumor cells, causing cancerous ones to roam free and multiply.
Preeti Subhedar, breast oncology surgeon at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the findings were interesting.
“The exact mechanism of why some tumors metastasize and others don't is still not well understood, but this study adds some fascinating detail to the understanding of tumor dormancy,” said Subhedar, who was not a part of the experiment.
Subhedar stressed that the implementation of the sponge or any foreign object in animals is not the same as an actual tumor in humans.
“We don’t know if the immune response to a foreign object is the same as that to a tumor,” Subhedar said. “This study shows that there could be an association between the immune response and cancer spread, but an association is not causation.”
For the second part of the study, MIT researchers tested the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, as other studies have shown these medicines may help reduce the risk of other cancers, like colon cancer. Their method worked, and the mice developed “significantly smaller tumors than wounded, untreated mice,” they said. In fact, the tumors often completely disappeared, and the medicine did not impede the mice’s wound healing.
Although there is no definitive data on the relationship between anti-inflammatory drugs and cancer for humans, researchers are hopeful about the results.
“We have a lot more research to determine if and how surgery can influence cancer spread,” Subhedar said. “I hope that the public understands that these kinds of studies may provide interesting findings, but surgery still remains an important curative part of breast cancer treatment.”
To do so, they examined the health records of more than 450,000 individuals who allowed their data to be included in a biobank in the U.K. The documents contained blood samples, questionnaires on diet and genetic information.
After analyzing the results, they found that people with a gene variation of FGF21 have less body fat than others. Previous studies suggest that people with this particular gene variation crave and eat more sugary foods than others.
“It sort of contradicts common intuition that people who eat more sugar should have less body fat,” coauthor Niels Grarup said in a statement. “But it is important to remember that we are only studying this specific genetic variation and trying to find connections to the rest of the body. This is just a small piece of the puzzle describing the connection between diet and sugar intake and the risk of obesity and diabetes.”
They also noted that those with a “genetic sweet tooth” have a slightly higher hypertension risk and also more fat around the waist than hips. This body type, known as the apple shape, can increase heart attack risk, especially among women.
“Now that so many people are involved in the study, it gives our conclusions a certain robustness. Even though the difference in the amount of body fat or blood pressure level is only minor depending on whether or not the person has this genetic variation or not, we are very confident that the results are accurate,” Grarup said.
Scientists now hope to use their newfound knowledge for future investigations. They want to develop treatment for obesity and diabetes that will specifically target FGF21.
It’s the second meteor shower of 2018.
Here’s what you need to know about the Lyrid meteor shower and how to watch the celestial spectacle:
What are Lyrids?
The Lyrid meteors are named after their radiant, defined as the point in the sky from which they appear to come from, the constellation Lyra.
According to NASA, Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers and have been observed for 2,700 years. The first recorded sighting of a Lyrid meteor shower dates back to 687 BC by the Chinese.
What causes the meteor shower?
The meteors’ particles come from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, named after A. E. Thatcher, who first discovered it on April 5, 1861.
The Lyrids occur as the comet passes Earth and leaves behind “a trail of comet crumbs” or space debris.
What’s the difference between a meteoroid, a meteor and a meteorite?
Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, told Space.com that a meteoroid is essentially space debris. For example, the “crumbs” left behind from Halley’s Comet trail are meteoroids.
These “crumbs” can also be left behind by asteroids, such as the 3200 Phaethon.
Once the meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors, or shooting stars.
Though most meteors disintegrate before hitting the ground, meteors that do strike the surface of the planet are called meteorites, Cooke said.
When will the Lyrid meteor shower peak?
The Lyrids are expected to illuminate the night sky between April 16 and April 25, but the shower will peak on the morning of Sunday, April 22. According to NASA, the shower will be active April 21-22.
How many meteors will I see?
With no moon in the sky, stargazers typically notice about 10 to 20 Lyrid meteors per hour.
Cooke told Space.com that this year, you’re likely to see about 18 meteors per hour.
But in the past, people have reported that they experienced as many as 100 meteors per hour during the Lyrids.
How bright will the meteors be?
The Lyrid meteor shower is known for its bright fireballs, but isn’t as luminous as August’s famous Perseid meteor shower.
What is the best time to see the meteors?
According to NASA, the Lyrids are viewed best in the Northern Hemisphere after the moon sets and before dawn.
Where can I watch the meteor shower?
Clear skies are essential for prime meteor shower viewing. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized street lights, will block out the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so head somewhere far from city lights.
NASA recommends viewers lie flat on their back, with their feet facing south, looking up at the sky. Viewers should give themselves 30 minutes for their eyes to adapt to the environment and bring warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair and leave telescopes at home.
A new study debunks the idea that old age causes people to lose the ability to grow new brain cells, New Scientist reported. Healthy people in their 70s seem to generate just as many new neurons as teenagers, the study reveals.
The new findings give a positive snapshot of the healthy aging brain, researchers said.
"It's good news that these cells are there in older adults' brains," lead researcher Dr. Maura Boldrini, an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City, told CBS News.
The study was published online April 5 in the journal “Cell Stem Cell.”
It's not clear if new brain cells would function the same way as younger adult brain cells do, said Dr. Ezriel Kornel, an assistant clinical professor of neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Kornel, who was not involved in the study, told CBS News the findings offer a "hopeful" message.
"Even as we age," he said, "we still have the capability of producing new neurons."
Boldrini’s team examined brain tissue from 28 people between the ages of 14 and 79 who had died suddenly, but had previously been healthy, CBS News reported.
According to the study, older and younger brains had similar numbers of "intermediate" progenitor cells and "immature" neurons -- a sign that older people had the same ability to generate new cells as young people, CBS News reported.
A woman from Washington state claims that an Ancestry.com DNA test identified her parents' fertility doctor as her biological father.
USA Today reported that Kelli Rowlette, 36, of Benton County, initially believed that Ancestry had botched her DNA test last July when Gerald Mortimer, someone she had never met, was identified as her father, according to a lawsuit she filed last week in Idaho.
According to the lawsuit, Rowlette's now-divorced parents, Sally Ashby and Howard Fowler, lived in Idaho when they started seeing Mortimer, then a doctor with the Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls, in 1979, USA Today reported. Mortimer suggested the couple, who faced fertility struggles while trying to conceive, try artificial insemination using an "85 percent mixture of [Fowler's] genetic material, and 15 percent of the mixture would be from anonymous donor," the lawsuit says, according to CBS News.
According to the Washington Post, although "the couple requested a donor who was in college and taller than 6 feet with brown hair and blue eyes," the lawsuit alleges that Mortimer, who didn't fit that description, used his own "genetic material" instead without telling them.
After Rowlette got her test results, she said she complained to her mother, who later examined the results and recognized the name of her former fertility doctor. Ashby told Fowler the news, and the pair grappled with whether to tell Rowlette who Mortimer was, the lawsuit says. Three months later, Rowlette found Mortimer named as her delivery doctor on her birth certificate, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit accuses Mortimer and his former practice of "medical negligence, fraud, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract," the Washington Post reported.
From the Sydney Opera House to Paris' Eiffel Tower, landmarks around the world went dark Saturday night for Earth Hour.
The "symbolic lights-out event," which began in Sydney in 2007, is designed to raise awareness about climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
A space enthusiast from Texas believes photographs taken by a NASA rover reveal an “alien skeleton” on Mars, KTRK reported.
A person from Waxahachie said a group of what looks like rocks is actually the skull and spine of a possible Martian.
The person filed a report with the Mutual UFO Network, which investigates UFO sightings in the United States and beyond, KTRK reported.
According to the report, the alleged skeleton was photographed by the Opportunity rover on Feb. 1 in Perseverance Valley on the west rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater.
The person who submitted the report to the UFO Network said a 3-D image revealed the bone detail of a spine, KTRK reported.
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