Science loves twins. The ability to take one twin as a placebo and the other as the change factor works incredibly well since the twins are practically identical physically. No surprise, science goes bananas studying all the differences that can occur. That’s what happened with the Kelly twins, when Scott and Mark both became astronauts. Scientists decided to send one into space to study what physical changes happened — they were not disappointed with their findings…
Twins Expect Scrutiny
Mark and Kelly were not surprised by the attention they got. Twins regularly raise eyebrows, and the two brothers wondered whether they would end up being in a twin experiment when they got older. Their suspicions proved correct. In 2015, they became part of a stellar experiment.
Control Versus Experiment
For the twin study to work, one of them had to be a control factor. That meant one would stay on earth staying the same without any change. The other would go up in space to see what kind of differences would occur with a long-term space assignment. NASA had a boatload of surprises when the experiment was completed.
Mark on Earth
For Mark, the twin staying earthbound, life was pretty much the same. He continued to keep living, working, eating and entertaining himself as before without any change. His brother Scott, in space, had an entirely different regimen.
Scott in Space
For Scott, the long-term assignment aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, was a very confined, scheduled existence. Every hour in space mattered for NASA, so the lives of the astronauts was pretty much booked from wake up to go to sleep, and even their sleep was monitored for studies.
Along with all the space assignments, Scott was spending everyday focused on producing results. That triggers a lot of mental stress in anyone, and NASA was busy measuring every iota of information about what was happening to Scott physically during the space assignment. For an entire year the process continued. NASA collected data and samples from both brothers which would later be used in comparison.
Finally, the day arrived that Scott would be back on earth. Because there isn’t a particular bus station for returning astronauts, the team ended up touching down in Russia. Scott not only got to go to space, he got to visit another country on his return to the planet. All was good it seemed. In his photo flanked by Russian scientists, Scott was all thumbs up.
The first initial studies of Scott versus Mark showed significant changes to the space-borne brother. Space is entirely different on the body without gravity. The immediate changes were to Scott’s internal system. He had significant fluid deposit in his head and torso. Scott also has a changed metabolism, and his immune system was working at full tilt.
Scott wasn’t just changed in terms of things moving around inside him. He had been changed genetically. Scott’s DNA started having mistakes in its replication due to be in space for so long. That triggered physical changes to Scott that even his brother could see.
A Unique Study
The Mark-Kelly Twins study was a game-changer for NASA. It was the first time the space organization could really dissect what happens to a person at the genetic level and up when spending a year in space. The research will have a profound impact on future space missions given what it highlighted for scientists about what can happen to the body in space.
Changes as the Chromosome Level
Space affected Scott in how his chromosomes behaved and developed. They actually extended and grew longer. But when he was back on earth, things didn’t go back to “normal” the way he was before. Scott’s chromosomes stayed changed.
The end of the chromosomes are protected by telomeres. As Scott returned, gravity and earth’s environment took effect, and his chromosomes lost their extended length. But the protective telomeres ended up being shorter than normal.
Age and Telomeres
The ends of the chromosomes are a key indicators how physical old a person is. When we are children, they tend to be very long. As we age, the telomeres shrink more and more. Then we become more vulnerable to age-related problems. Scott’s telomeres had shrunk considerably, indicating rapid aging of his internal physical DNA.
Mark and Scott are very likely to continue being studied as a result of the space mission to the end of their lives. NASA and a lot of other scientists are very curious to see what the telomeres change will mean for Scott’s longevity versus Mark and whether there is a predictable connection.
Nobody is Calling the Game Yet
Many will assume that by keeping telomeres longer, it can equal youth retention. However, NASA is very quick to argue that Scott’s telomeres which grew very long in space in fact aged faster in that environment than on Earth. So forced extension is not a fix or cure with this flawed logic.
The Opposite May Be True
Extended space travel may turn out to be highly risky and damaging to humans. And that brings into question how in the world, or out of the world, humans will be able to maintain long-term space exploration if their bodies age prematurely? Or do we make great sacrifices for space exploration and accept the risk? No one is making that decision yet, but the study raises a new, serious concern.
Do the Twins Still Match?
The general question when Scott got back to Earth was whether the two brothers still looked identical or did Space dramatically change the bond they had on the planet before the launch.
Mark Did It
As it turned out, Mark was enjoying himself quite a bit on land, even growing a mustache. So, right up front, he may have fouled up some comparisons by his own living c hoices. Mark turned out to have more DNA changes in total due to his lifestyle. That said, Scott had a few secrets he brought home with him.
Scott’s eye shape had been modified by the space stay, but everything was working slower in his mind. His brain cognitive speed had slowed down, and now he has a higher risk for heart disease.
NASA wants to keep studying twins as much as possible, but the practical aspect of getting twins ready to be astronauts with all the necessary study and training is an almost impossible job. It’s hard enough just to be an astronaut, but to find twins from an early age and steer them to the career is unheard of. Mark and Scott Kelly were an anomaly from the start.
Definitive Result #1
NASA did come out with one clearly positive result from the study – the organization could effectively study the genetic status of an astronaut on a long-term space mission, which had never been done before. That opens the door for a lot of new research going forward.
Definitive Result #2
Given the results of what happened to Scott, the deep thinkers at NASA are going to have a lot to work on with trying to figure out how safely engage a mission to Mars. Any such venture will have an extensive time requirement on a given astronaut with serious physical effects. The implications have to be addressed now to make the mission success probable. Which is a new challenge now defined and clear versus being a theoretical what-if problem for NASA engineers.
6-year-old Survives Cancer, School Surprises Him With a Welcome Back
No child should have to deal with cancer, but Nathan found himself in the undesirable situation of not just facing the disease but a particularly fatal version, non-Hodgkin lymphoma. So, in 2018 his parents took Nathan to the Mayo Clinic and began the boy’s treatment as quickly as possible. The process was long, painful and aggressive as all stops were pulled to save the child’s life. The entire treatment and recovery took almost two and a half years before Nathan was back on his feet again.
A Rough Ride Down the Medical Rabbit Hole
During the treatment process, Nathan faced close calls. Tubes, medicine, shots, examinations, the cycle didn’t seem to end and went on for days and weeks trying to stop the boy’s cancer from spreading. The disease progressed so hard, the boy was on life support during the worst of the ordeal. There was visceral fear he was going to be terminal. Yet Nathan got through it, and his family was there with him all the way as well. In fact, when Nathan finally reached his end of treatment and the last day of the process, his school and fellow students decided to do something special for the patient. They were going to give him a big surprise for Nathan’s return to the classroom.
Time for a Surprise and Celebrating a Return
In a large, coordinated effort planned for March 25, 2021 and just before Easter, the entire school and 300 students showed up to welcome Nathan back to his class as the boy and his family drove through the school’s parking lot. Not only was the event well-distributed with a big response, it even made broadcasting on ABC’s World News Tonight as a classic report on good news, something a bit uncommon on national news broadcasts under normal circumstances.
The Small Things Matter the Most to Kids
Nathan’s big wish, however, was very much appropriate for his age. He just wanted to see his school friends again from the various classes Nathan remembered going to school with before getting sick. Of course, a lot had changed while Nathan was gone. Kids grow fast in two or three years, and Nathan had grown as well. However, once he and his friends saw each other, it was like old times again. The story had more meaning than normal as well; many of Nathan’s fellow students had spent almost a year separated from each other due to the COVID pandemic and the requirements for social distancing. The chance to see Nathan as well as each other was too good to pass up.
As Nathan mother, Becky stated, she wanted every child back in school before the academic year ended. A sense of normality after all they had been through was like gold, just like it was for the families disrupted by the pandemic across the country as well.
Twins Turn Chance Encounter With Steve Irwin Into Lifelong Pursuit of Animal Conservation
Paula and Bridgette Powers were just another pair of twins living in Australia when they met Steve Irwin. At the time, Irwin had been in a carrier with a crew of camera people. Getting the call to visit the Australia Zoo to assist with a sick sea turtle, Irwin had dove into the water while still wearing his boots — that was just the kind of person Steve Irwin was.
When Steve found himself face-to-face with the turtle, he also met the twins that had been treating the creature. Paula and Bridgette were known by their friends as the Twinnies, and they were equally excited to meet Steve. The meeting would become momentous as it fueled the twin’s ambitions to do more with their lives in the area of animal rights and conservation. Steve was fascinated by the Twins and the trio got off to an electric start. Says Bob Irwin of his son Steve, “He had a skill for being able to recognize special things that people might have.”
Path Towards Seabird Rehabilitation
While this meeting with Steve proved to be quite momentous, it wasn’t the only defining step along the path for Paula and Bridgette. The twins had been forced to leave school at the young age of ten due to health-related issues. Despite leaving school behind at a young age, the sisters wouldn’t give up on their aspirations. Helen, the children’s mother, would say, “What’s a mum supposed to do?”
The chance meeting with Steve Irwin would guide the twins toward what would become their calling, work at the Australia Zoo as well as the establishment of their charity, Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue. At the time of this writing, the Twin’s charity has been operational for more than 21 years, providing services to help animals recover and acclimate to the wild once more.
Claire Smith is a friend of the twins as well as a fellow worker in the wildlife rescue field. Claire pointed out that Paula and Bridgette both had a seemingly ‘incredible ability’ to read birds and to better understand what was going wrong with them. Claire also says, “Nobody else has gone that far in understanding the psyche of birds…”
What makes the Twinnies a particularly notable story is the quirk that goes along with their relationship: the way that they speak at the same time! After showing up for an interview on Good Morning Britain, anchor Piers Morgan would say of the twins, “It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
For their own part, Paula and Bridgette don’t seem too bothered by the Twinning aspect of their relationship. The Twinnies allege that they ‘feel complete’ when they are dressed in completely identical clothing, though they note that they have tried dressing differently than one another.
While there is a lot that goes into the Twinnies’ relationship, friends like Claire don’t want people to get Paula and Bridgette mistaken. Claire says, “People make the mistake of seeing them as some sort of novelty.”
The truth is, at least according to those who know the twins, that Paula and Bridgette are among the leading experts in their area of expertise. Claire says, “They are experts, absolute pros.”
Jeff Craig is an epigenetics researcher at Deakin University, and he had nothing but glowing words for the twins. Craig says, “I’ve heard such twins described as two bodies and one soul. I think that’s a perfect way to talk about them.”
Baby Stegosaur Footprint Found In China
Somewhere around a centennial of millions of years before anyone in the human race was born, a big baby stomped all over the place with full weight on its hind feet. This particular infant was a stegosaur that decided to rear up on its hind legs for a moment. Doing so, the infant ended up leaving a print in the mud it was standing in that ended up lasting for almost perpetuity as the impression became fossilized into rock. Today, the same footprint, about the size of a cat’s paw, was located in Xinjiang in the northwestern part of China. Paleontologists working in the area were able to excavate a remarkable impression left by the creature which in all likelihood was only about the size of someone’s palm at the time.
The location was not barren or sparse in ancient types. Evidenced by multiple other stegosaur footprints from larger creatures, the place where the baby footprints were located was a frequent traffic area for the creatures. Generally herbivores, stegosaurs are easy to tell apart from other similar dinosaurs by the fact that they had a unique three-toe foot. That left a related unique footprint which identified where they frequented as the prints fossilized. The baby stegosaur was an extremely small replication of the much larger adults that frequented area, offshoots of which were found in broken fossil sets in the same area.
The existing of small baby versions of the stegosaur has been debated repeatedly in prior finds. One set of tracks were located in Morrison, CO. However, paleontologists were split on that evidence with some confirming the find was indeed a fossilized track set, and other similar scientist arguing they are nothing but captured mud that was trapped in sandstone during compression over the millennia.
For researchers in China, the Xinjiang find raised additional questions as to how the baby creature traveled. Unlike its larger relatives, this particular infant is assumed to have traveled on its hind legs primarily. Researchers are using the find as additional evidence to conclude that the stegosaur didn’t really transition to walking on four legs until it was closer to full size, needing four legs to carry its full weight in adulthood. In short, the infants and young versions were generally standing and moving upright, like a bipedal human with backward knee joints. The conclusion is based on how the tracks were created with very short impressions versus dragging marks that typically happen as the creature moves on four legs and has a much lower stride to the ground.
The find is one like to keep generating more journal articles debating the possibilities, but one thing is definitely true: some small creature way back when managed to leave its mark that has lasted well over 100 million years, which is a pretty good track record for a calling card.
Beekeepers and Pittsburgh Airport Partner to Save Bees
As much as bees are important to agriculture, people panic whenever they come across one, much more a colony of bees. Just thinking that you can be at an airport and just right behind you, there are millions of bees that may freak some people out.
However, when it’s taken into context, and you realize the massive benefits of them being there and learn that they will not venture away from their hives to harm anyone, you’ll breathe more easily.
What is fuzzy, black and yellow, buzzes, creates honey, and resides around an airfield? Not everyone will be fooled by the last section; it’s bees.
To help restore colony volumes in the state, bees are now being accepted into the Pittsburgh International Airport’s disheveled areas. This comes after Ben Shertzer, the airport’s wildlife administrator, discovered many colonies attached to the bottom of a plane’s wings.
Bees, as the largest and most important pollinators, control the fate of billions of dollars in cultivation and the life of almost all the fruit and nut crops.
Organic farmers transfer their hives around the world, pollinating grasslands and orchards, and bees are thought to be responsible for 35 percent of agricultural products in the United States.
Shertzer had to employ a master beekeeper, Steve Repasky, to extract the hives from the Delta plane’s wings, but the experience piqued his curiosity in the buzzing insects. Because of his curiosity, he learned more about the plight of bees around the world and how important they are to the environment.
The two men devised a scheme to set up an apiary in the forests and uncut grass fields surrounding the airport’s perimeter. Even so, it took many years for an executive sensitive to the apids’ situation to get things going.
More than four million bees swarm around the airport’s properties now, spread over eight thousand acres and 110 colonies, and they’re assisting the workers in monitoring air pollution generated on the premises.
Swarming behavior, in which a hive splits in the spring and the bees flee a mile or more in search of a new home, seemed to be an issue at one point when Repasky was extracting 15 hives per year from hangar vehicles and planes.
Pittsburgh International Airport’s Steve Repasky
However, “swarm traps” placed along the tarmac’s edges have reduced this amount to three.
Many airports across the country and around the world, which include Seattle-Tacoma, Austin-Bergstrom, and Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting to keep bees, according to Air & Space Magazine.
It’s a strange development that might help overcome years of depletion in bee populations, which are starting to recover thanks to fertilizer reductions and individuals like Shertzer’s initiatives.
In Germany, for instance, honey is harvested (and handed away for free at some airports) and tested for toxic substances and hydrocarbons to ensure that air pollution standards are met.
The honey, it turns out, is comparable to honey produced in areas without heavy industry, which is a fascinating discovery.
The project has been embraced and is being considered by many other airports and countries across the world.
Atlanta Braves Call Up Sean Kazmar Jr For MLB Action After 13 Years Away
Baseball fans understand that when draft and sign a prospect, there is no guarantee that you will see them in the Big Leagues anytime soon. There are exceptions, of course, with notable names like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols both making it the Show within a couple of years. For an infielder on the Atlanta Braves Minor League affiliate team, the journey to the top took quite a bit longer but it might have been all the more satisfying as a result.
Sean Kazmar was a fifth-round draft pick in 2004 when he was selected by the San Diego Padres. The young infielder would make his way to the Majors for a smattering of at-bats, appearing in just 19 games that season Kazmar wouldn’t make much of an impression and this would mark the beginning of a career in the Minor Leagues, though not exactly by choice.
Minor League baseball players are often asked to adhere to grueling schedules while being paid at significantly reduced rates. The experience at the A, AA, and AAA level is more reminiscent of collegiate ball, with players bussing, sharing rooms, and frequently pooling money together. To say that lower A ball isn’t glamorous would be to put it lightly, but that would also be a disservice to the hard work that Sean Kazmar Jr did while facing adversity.
After making his debut in 2008, Kazmar would get sent down to the Minor Leagues for over a decade, quietly plying away at his trade to make the improvements necessary to get called back up to the show. With how rare first chances are in the MLB, Kazmar probably didn’t dare to hope. Yet, in 2021 Kazmar would be called up by the Atlanta Braves as a pinch-hitter against the Chicago Cubs. Kazmar would ground into a double play, not an ideal scenario for a first at-bat back to the game, but he was still glowing after the fact.
Kazmar said of getting back in the game after more than 13 years away, “What a good feeling — getting that opportunity early in the game was awesome.” Kazmar would go on to describe how important it felt to wear the Braves uniform while playing at such a historic ballpark as Wrigley Field. Kazmar finishes, “It was amazing.”
Kazmar’s gap between major league appearances was not just hard for him, it was historic for the league. Before Kazmar, the last huge gap between appearances was by a right-handed pitcher named Ralph Winegarner, playing in 1936 before re-appearing in 1949 for the St. Louis Browns.
Manager Brian Snitker described his call to Kazmar as a ‘highlight’ of his career, giving an opportunity to someone who had worked hard and done things right. Snitker said, “it’s a second debut for him.” That wasn’t the only kind statement that Snitker had to share about the infielder currently filling in for Ozzie Albies. Kazmar also described Kazmar as their team MVP in Spring Training.
According to Kazmar, getting called up couldn’t have happened at a better time. Kazmar had been sitting at home on his couch when he got the call. Kazmar and his wife would go on to drop everything so that she could make it to Chicago on a redeye flight to see her husband play. Kazmar’s parents also came to the game.
Cubs manager David Ross said of Kazmar’s story, “That’s the stuff you love about baseball.”