Friday, December 9, 2016

Learning! Roundup: Space farming, dino tail feathers, parkinson's, and privilege

Learning! Roundup: science and research news on farming in space, dinosaur tail feathers, parkinson's and gut bacteria, and more understanding of white privilege
Photo Source: Image Catalogue
Space Farming

First of all, did you know that farming in space is actually a thing??? I sure didn't! They are growing red romain lettuce, dubbed "Outredgeous", in the International Space Station. So far they've solved the problems of growing produce in zero gravity (like how to make sure it gets enough water), and are now working on sustainable harvesting and regrowing techniques.


Shake Your (Dino) Tail Feather

Get ready for a more scientifically accurate Jurassic Park! They have found a piece of a dinosaur tail in a chunk of amber! The big news? It's got feathers. So far they have found evidence of feathered dinosaurs through fossil impression and the discovery of dinosaur-era feathers, but this is the first time some have turned up well-preserved actually attached to a dinosaur fragment.

Gut Bacteria and Parkinson's

New research shows that gut bacteria could be a contributing factor to Parkinson's disease, the cause of which has been unknown to date. Since about 70% of neurons in the peripheral nervous system are located in the intestines, and these are all connected to the spinal column through the vagus nerve, there is a logical connection between gut bacteria and a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's.

Understanding Privilege

Some people are really sick of hearing about White Privilege - mostly, I think, white people. Sure, maybe part of the problem is that the term is now being thrown around like candy (perhaps because it is even more pervasive than candy in our society), but also because we misunderstand the term. "Privilege" makes us think of having some kind of sweet, cushy life. Since very few of us feel like our lives are privileged, it's hard to connect with the term.

Here's another great piece unpacking White Privilege and what it really refers to. Basically, it's the absence of stereotypes put on you due to your race. What judgements they put on you and how you are held accountable, or not, for the actions of other people who look like you. How likely they are to want to help you (like, for example, the recent study of 6,500 US professors showing that white male students asking for help regrind future opportunities receive more favourable responses.)


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