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Study: Diet drinks can lead to stroke, dementia

Diet sodas — one of America's favorite caffeine-delivery systems — appears to be just as unhealthy as their sugary cousins

The Washington Post reports that a new study refutes the theory that diet drinks are a better option than those made with sugar or corn syrup.

>> Read more trending news

The new study in the journal Stroke says people who drink diet soda are three times as likely as those who don’t to have a stroke or develop dementia.

“This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia,” Matthew Pase, a Boston University School of Medicine neurologist told The Washington Post.

Paseo is the lead author of the study.

He stressed the study showed just a correlation and not a causation but that diet pop simply “might not be a healthy alternative.”

The study of 2,888 individuals age 45 and older looked for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia over a 10-year period.

There was no association with stroke or dementia found in a parallel study of sugary drinks.

The diet sodas used by those in the study contained the artificial sweeteners saccharin, acesulfame-K and aspartame.

“So, the bottom line is, ‘Have more water and have less diet soda,” said Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, in an American Heart Association news release. “And don’t switch to real soda.”

He added: “Nobody ever said diet sodas were a health food.”

The American Beverage Association said low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies and there is nothing in this research that counters this well-established fact.

“While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect,” the beverage association noted.

To read the whole Washington Post story click here.

Jumbo Earthlike planet might have water and life, close enough to study

Scientists have discovered another Earthlike planet in a nearby solar system just 39 light years away.

The rocky, super-sized planet, named LHS 1140b, is inside the habitable zone, or Goldilocks Zone, orbiting a red dwarf star with an average temperature that could support liquid water.

>> Read more trending news

The planet is almost seven times larger than Earth and about 11,000 miles in diameter, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

"This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade," lead study author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) said in a statement

"We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science − searching for evidence of life beyond Earth."

Researchers discovered the planet using the transit method, which measures how much light a potential planet blocks as it crosses in front of a star.

>> Related: Scientists find 7 ‘Earth-sized planets’ orbiting star 40 light-years away, NASA says

Scientist believe that 1140b could be close enough that newer telescopes now under construction might be able to search for specific gasses, like oxygen, in the future.

Thousands of exoplanets in thousands of planetary systems have been discovered so far, and potentially habitable planets have also been found. 

>> Related: Space travel is measured in light years, but what’s a light-year anyway?

NASA announced the discovery earlier this year of seven Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1, but more study is needed to see if they could support life.

 

Massive asteroid dubbed ‘The Rock’ to fly unusually close to Earth this week

Space junkies rejoice — the gargantuan 2014 JO25 asteroid, nicknamed “The Rock,” will be making an uncomfortably close approach to Earth this week.

>> Read more trending news

Scientists say the 2,000 foot-wide space rock, given its nickname for being as massive as the Rock of Gibraltar (or, to some, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), will fly safely past Earth on Wednesday, April 19, at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers). That’s about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

Though it is expected to be very close to Earth for an asteroid of its size, there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with the planet, according to NASA, whose scientists partnered with the Catalina Sky Survey to discover the space rock three years ago.

>> Related: Scientists discover 60 new planets, including one 'super Earth'

It will be “The Rock’s” closest approach to Earth in at least 400 years and will be its closest approach for at least the next 500 years.

The upcoming encounter with Earth is also the closest by any known asteroid of its size or larger and the next known encounter of something this size won’t occur until 2027, NASA scientists said in a news release.

>> Related: NASA finds 'lost' lunar spacecraft orbiting moon nearly a decade after it disappeared

How and when to watch:

The asteroid will fly to Earth from the direction of the sun and will be visible in the night sky after April 19.

It will be closest to our home planet at approximately 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Because the asteroid isn’t very bright, you’ll need a small-optical telescope to see it at night.

According to Sky and Telescope, the asteroid will cover half the sky in under 30 minutes during early evening hours on April 19 and it’ll be fast enough to see it fly across the field of view in real time.

After one or two nights, 2014 JO25 will fade as the distance from Earth increases.

Also in the sky around the same time, according to NASA, will be the comet PanSTARRS — and it’ll be visible in the sky at dawn with binoculars or a small telescope.

Here's how to watch NASA's first live 360-degree video of a rocket launch

NASA and United Launch Alliance will broadcast the first 360-degree view of a rocket launch live Tuesday as a cargo payload heads to the International Space Station.

>> Read more trending news

The launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 11:11 a.m. EDT with a 30-minute window. The broadcast begins at 11 a.m. EDT.

To see the launch live, go to NASA’s YouTube channel and use your mouse to manipulate the view.

>> Click here to watch the livestream on YouTube

“While virtual reality and 360 technology have been increasing in popularity, live 360 technology is a brand-new capability that has recently emerged,” NASA said in a statement. “Recognizing the exciting possibilities opened by applying this new technology to spaceflight, NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK seized this opportunity to virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch.”

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will be loaded with 7,600 pounds of research, supplies and hardware for the space station. It will launch on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.

Alien life possible on small Saturn moon, maybe on a Jupiter moon, too 

 

One of Saturn’s small, white moons has the perfect conditions for life in its icy crust-covered ocean.

The Cassini spacecraft, in a fly-by of the moon Enceladus, discovered some of the building blocks for life in plumes of vapor and particles erupting through cracks in the moon’s crust, according to a report from Cassini mission researchers in the journal “Science.”  

>> Read more trending news

The vapor or gas contains hydrogen, one of the essential components of life.

“A form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn's moon Enceladus,” a NASA spokesperson said in a news release.

Space agency scientists believe there could be microbial life around hot spots in the moon’s ocean, just like on Earth, where hydrothermal chemical reactions occur deep in the ocean when cold water interacts with molten rocks.

Life on Earth needs three main ingredients to exist and flourish: liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism and the right chemicals, primarily carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

>> Related: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gets up close and personal with Saturn’s rings

“This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said.

”These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA's science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not.”

In addition, Hubble Space Telescope researchers reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters that they’ve spotted the same vapor jets erupting from Jupiter’s large, icy moon Europa, which also has a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust.

 

Scared of flying? Climate change will make it worse

If rising sea levels and bleached coral reefs weren’t bad enough, climate change may also make for bumpier flights.

According to a paper published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, jet streams in both the northern and southern hemispheres are expected to strengthen at the cruising altitudes of aircraft as the globe warms.

>> Read more trending news

That means more wind shear at high altitudes as increases in carbon dioxide concentrations flood the atmosphere, says Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading in England.

The study focused on transatlantic flights, noting that “climate change may have important consequences for aviation, because the meteorological characteristics of the atmosphere influence airport operations, flight routes, journey times, and the safety and comfort of passengers and crew.”

“We’re particularly interested in severe turbulence, because that’s the kind of turbulence that’s strong enough to hospitalize people,” Williams told The Washington Post.

Williams said more severe turbulence may force flights to find new routes, which could increase flying time, use of fuel and airplane wear-and-tear.

There are three main types of turbulence: 

  • Convective turbulence is caused by thunderstorms formed as the sun heats the land and the warm moist air rises and cools into clouds. When the clouds can’t hold any more water, it rains, causing a downdraft of cold air and wind. 
  • Clear-air turbulence cannot be detected visually and is not associated with clouds. It occurs typically in the high atmosphere with variations of wind in jet streams — currents of air in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by the planet’s rotation and heating by the sun.
  • Mechanical or mountain turbulence happens when wind encounters tall obstructions, such as mountains, trees or buildings that disrupt its smooth flow. The disrupted air can form eddies on the other side of the obstruction that will jostle the plane.

Williams’ study focused on clear-air turbulence, which he said will increase “significantly” as the climate changes.

Williams said that better turbulence forecasts and mechanisms already on planes will help mitigate severe bumpiness.

“But even an increase in light turbulence can cause greater wear and tear on planes or force pilots to use extra fuel redirecting their flight paths to avoid rough patches,” The Post wrote.

Run for your life! Study says one hour run could equal 7 extra hours of life   

Run for your life, literally. Just one hour of running each day could extend a person’s life by as much as seven hours, according to a new study.

Iowa State University professor and study co-author Duck-chul Lee and his colleagues analyzed data from the Cooper Institute in Dallas,  a non-profit dedicated to health research and education, and other recent large studies on the relationship between exercise and mortality, the New York Times reported. 

>> Read more trending news

The research concluded that running reduced premature deaths by almost 40 percent, and that runners tended to live about three years longer than non-runners, regardless of other health factors, including obesity, drinking and smoking. 

For an average run of two hours a week, scientists figured that would equal less than six months of running time over a 40 year period, but they said it could equal a life extension of about three years, returning more time to a person than it consumes, the NYT reported. 

>> Related: Bathe and burn, baths as good as 30-minute walks

Other forms of exercise, like walking and biking, are also beneficial, the study found, but running seems to have the greatest impact.

The research was published in March in the journal “Progress in Cardiovascular Disease.”

Pink moon on the rise puts on show in night sky, signals spring

The first full moon of spring, called the Full Pink Moon, is getting ready to put on a show in the night sky this week, but it may not be exactly pink.

>> Read more trending news

It’s called a pink moon because it usually signals the blossoming of the pink wildflower known as ground phlox, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The moon is also known as the Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Easter Moon and Fish Moon.

The names come from the early Colonial settlers, who learned them from the Native Americans. They used the lunar cycle and lunar months to keep track of time and the seasons.

The moon reaches peak fullness on Tuesday at 2:08 a.m. Eastern Time and Monday night at 11:08 p.m. Pacific Time, according to Space.com, but will be visible everywhere until Wednesday. 

Thousands of ants form rare ‘raft’ in Florida

Rainfall on the University of Florida campus has led to thousands of fire ants partaking in a rare phenomenon.

>> Read more trending news

A video tweeted out by the university’s entomology department shows the fire ants creating an ant raft at UF’s Natural Area Teaching Laboratory. 

An ant raft is a mechanism used by ants to avoid drowning in floods, according to Live Science. The large grouping of linked ants, which takes a little under two minutes to form, creates a water-repellent grouping that allows the entire group to float above floodwaters, according to Live Science.

Though likely impossible to quantify, the video posted on Twitter shows a massive gathering on ants floating above water.

A sea change in the Arctic 

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