Archive for April, 2015

Bigger Earthquake Coming on Nepal’s Terrifying Faults


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Bigger Earthquake Coming on Nepal’s Terrifying Faults

Nepal faces larger and more deadly earthquakes, even after the magnitude-7.8 temblor that killed more than 4,000 people on Saturday (April 25).

Earthquake experts say Saturday’s Nepal earthquake did not release all of the pent-up seismic pressure in the region near Kathmandu. According to GPS monitoring and geologic studies, some 33 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) of motion may need to be released, said Eric Kirby, a geologist at Oregon State University. The earth jumped by about 10 feet (3 m) during the devastating April 25 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Nepalese residents gather in an open space at the site of destruction caused after Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu (27 April 2015)

Tens of thousands of people in Nepal have been forced to live and sleep outside for fear of further aftershocks following Saturday’s earthquake, which killed more than 3,000 people  (

“The earthquakes in this region can be much, much larger,” said Walter Szeliga, a geophysicist at Central Washington University.

Seismologists have extensively studied the possibility of damaging earthquakes in the central Himalayas. Through analyzing written histories, looking for clues from damaged buildings and digging along faults, researchers know of several damaging earthquakes in the past, but not their precise size. [See Photos of This Millennium’s Destructive Earthquakes]

Nepal was overdue for a major earthquake, said Marin Clark, a geophysicist at the University of Michigan. “It has been a long time since the last big rupture, so this is not unexpected,” Clark said.

One of the region’s most devastating recent quakes occurred in 1934, when a magnitude-8.2 earthquake killed over 8,500 people in Kathmandu. Before then, the last time such an immense quake struck Kathmandu was on July 7, 1255. That quake killed about 30 percent of the population. The region west of Kathmandu has been seismically quiet since June 6, 1505, when a great earthquake toppled buildings from Tibet to India.

A member of Nepalese police personnel looks on as an excavator is used to dig through rubble to search for bodies, in the aftermath of Saturdays earthquake in Kathmandu (27 April 2015)

An excavator is used to dig through rubble in search of bodies in Kathmandu (

Crash zone

Nepal is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone regions because it lies at the head-on collision between two tectonic plates. India is slamming into Asia, and neither wants to give. Both India and Asia are continental crust, of the same average density. So instead of one plate sinking beneath the other, such as is happening at the ocean-continent plate collision offshore South America, the Earth’s crust crumples. Slices of India peel off and slowly squeeze under Asia, while Asia is mashed upward, forming the Himalayas.

India and Asia collide at about eight-tenths of an inch (2 centimeters) per year. Most of that energy is loaded onto earthquake faults as elastic strain because the faults are stuck together. Loading a fault is like squeezing a spring; an earthquake releases the built-up energy similar to an uncoiling spring.

The India-Asia plate tectonic collision.
Credit: IRIS

Scientists think earthquakes that are magnitude 7.8 in size can’t release all of the strain between India and Asia. Instead, history suggests most of the stored energy gets uncorked as earthquakes that are magnitude 8 or greater, according to geologic studies. It would take scores of magnitude-7 quakes to accommodate all of the plate motion, but only a handful of midsize, magnitude-8 quakes, or one magnitude 9. (The energy released by a quake increases by a factor of 30 with each additional point in magnitude.) [Video: What Does Earthquake ‘Magnitude’ Mean?]

“It seems likely that the amount of slip in this earthquake probably didn’t make up for the complete deficit,” Kirby said.

Damaged roads are seen after an earthquake on the outskirts of Kathmandu (26 April 2015)

The 7.8 magnitude quake opened up huge cracks in the ground, here in a road on the outskirts of Kathmandu (

The April 25 earthquake struck on one of the many thrust faults that mark the boundary between the two plates. Thrust faults are the most terrifying of all faults because they lie at an angle. This shallow angle means a massive part of the Earth’s crust can lurch during an earthquake. Steeper faults quickly grow too warm and soft to break; as rocks get deeper, they flow like putty, Szeliga said. During the Nepal temblor, a piece of crust roughly 75 miles (120 kilometers) long and 37 miles (60 km) wide jogged 10 feet (3 m) to the south. The fault angled only 10 degrees from the surface, and the quake was only 9 miles (14 km) deep.

“This one was relatively shallow, which intensifies the surface shaking,” Clark said.

A Nepalese policeman tries to clear the rubble with his hands while looking for survivors at the compound of a collapsed temple in Kathmandu (27 April 2015)

A Nepalese policeman tries to clear the rubble with his hands while looking for survivors at the site of a collapsed temple in Kathmandu (

From seismic readings, many scientists suspect the fault did not break all the way to the surface, like the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles. That’s another indication that the earthquake did not unleash all of the stored strain in the region, Kirby said. The seismic instruments can detect where the strongest motion occurred on the fault.

However, even without a surface trace, GPS instruments and InSAR (radar from satellites) will provide precise tracking of how the ground shifted during the earthquake, Szeliga said. The data will help ground-truth scientist’s models of Himalayan tectonics.

People pray before cremating the body of a victim of Saturdays earthquake, alongside a river in Kathmandu, Nepal (27 April 2015)

People pray before cremating the body of a victim in Kathmandu (

“Now’s the chance to see who made predictions that were even remotely testable, and if they stand up,” Szeliga said.

Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow Live Science @livescience,Facebook &Google+. Originally published on Live Science.


Thin ‘Bubble’ Coatings Could Hide Submarines from Sonar

Posted in World Military Corner with tags on April 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Thin ‘Bubble’ Coatings Could Hide Submarines from Sonar

Bubble-filled rubbery coatings may one day help make submarines virtually undetectable to sonar, researchers say.

To avoid detection by sonar,military submarines are often covered with sound-absorbing tiles called anechoic coatings. These perforated rubber tiles are typically about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) thick.

In the past decade, research has suggested that the same degree of stealth could be provided by much thinner coatings filled with vacant cavities. When hit by sound waves, empty spaces in an elastic material can oscillate in size, “so it will dissipate a lot of energy,” said lead study author Valentin Leroy, a physicist at the Université  Paris Diderot in France. [7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]

However, figuring out how to optimize such materials for stealth applications previously involved time-consuming simulations. To simplify the problem, Leroy and his colleagues modeled the empty spaces in the elastic material as spherical bubbles, with each giving off a springy response to a sound wave that depended on its size and the elasticity of the surrounding material. This simplification helped them derive an equation that could optimize the material’s sound absorption to a given sound frequency.

The researchers designed a “bubble meta-screen,” a soft layer of silicone rubber that is only 230 microns thick, which is a little more than twice the average width of a human hair. The bubbles inside were cylinders measuring 13 microns high and 24 microns wide, and separated from each other by 50 microns.

In underwater experiments, the scientists bombarded a meta-screen placed on a slab of steel with ultrasonic frequencies of sound. They found that the meta-screen dissipated more than 91 percent of the incoming sound energy and reflected less than 3 percent of the sound energy. For comparison, the bare steel block reflected 88 percent of the sound energy.

“We have a simple analytical expression whose predictions are in a very good agreement with numerical simulations and real experiments,” Leroy told Live Science. “I find it exciting and beautiful.”

To make submarines invisible to the sound frequencies used in sonar, larger bubbles are needed. Still, the researchers predicted that a 0.16-inch-thick (4 millimeters) film with 0.08-inch (2 millimeters) bubbles could absorb more than 99 percent of the energy from sonar, cutting down reflected sound waves by more than 10,000-fold, or about 100 times better than was previously assumed possible.

However, despite the possibilities, “making these samples will probably be tough,” Leroy cautioned.

The scientists detailed their findings online Jan. 6 in the journal Physical Review B.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Woman Finds 3.69-Carat White Diamond at Arkansas State Park, Names It ‘Hallelujah Diamond’

Posted in News with tags , on April 28, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Woman Finds 3.69-Carat White Diamond at Arkansas State Park, Names It ‘Hallelujah Diamond’

Good Morning America

Susie Clark and her husband spent days hunting diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, and on the last day she said a prayer.

“Are you going to bless me and let me find a diamond today?” Clark, from Evening Shade, Arkansas, prayed, according to a park news release.

Her prayer was answered shortly after with a 3.69-carat white diamond, which she saw “sticking out of a furrow ridge in the plowed dirt,” the release said.

Clark has named the teardrop-shaped rock “the Hallelujah Diamond” because it was an answer to her prayer, the release said.

Park Interpreter Waymon Cox described the stone as frosted white with a pearlescent shine.

Oklahoma Teenager Finds 3.85-Carat Canary Diamond

Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond in Park, Doesn’t Plan to Keep It

According to the park, Clark’s find is the largest of this year, though other park-goers have found 121 other diamonds. A visitor found a 6.19-carat white diamond — named the Limitless Diamond — on April 16, 2014. Other diamonds of note found by the park’s visitors include a 16.37-carat white diamond and a 3.85-carat canary diamond.

Clark had first visited the Crater of Diamonds State Park 33 years ago with her mother and grandmother from Germany. ABC News could not reach Clark for comment, but the release said that she plans to keep the diamond.

According to Cox, rainfall in recent weeks, combined with park staffers’ plowing the 37.5-acre search field — eroded the surface of a diamond-bearing deposit, helping to bring more of the stones to the surface and increasing visitors’ chances of finding them.

“Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size, and they lack static electricity, so rainfall slides the dirt off diamonds that are on the surface of the search area, leaving them exposed. And when the sun comes out, they’ll sparkle and be noticed,” he said in the release.

Crater of Diamonds is the world’s only diamond-producing site that is open to the public, according to the park. Visitors who find diamonds are allowed to keep them.

Photos: Shimmering Shades May Help Animals Survive


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Photos: Shimmering Shades May Help Animals Survive

In Photos: Beautiful Cactus Flowers Signal Spring Is Here


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In Photos: Beautiful Cactus Flowers Signal Spring Is Here

25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope: A Story of Redemption

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on April 26, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope: A Story of Redemption

This week, NASA and the space science community celebrated 25 years since the launch and deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, an instrument with one of the greatest redemption stories in science history.

Throughout its quarter-century in space, the iconic telescope — which launched on April 24, 1990 — has provided spectacular views of the cosmos and revealed exceptional insights about the universe. But there were also moments when it looked as though decades of work, plus billions of taxpayer dollars, might suddenly slip down the drain, and there were worries that the project might fail completely.

But Hubble overcame those obstacles to become one of the most successful telescopes ever built, both in terms of its scientific return and its impact on the public. And after 25 years of operation, Hubble’s best days may still be ahead of it, astronomers say. [The Hubble Space Telescope: A 25th Anniversary Photo Celebration]

Infographic: Find out how the Hubble Space Telescope works.


Find out how Hubble has stayed on the cutting edge of deep-space astronomy for the past 20 years here.
Credit: Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

On Thursday (April 23), NASA unveiled its official anniversary image for the Hubble 25-year celebration. It’s a cosmic landscape featuring multicolored gas clouds and dazzling, jewel-like stars — a breathtaking image of a region in space that can teach astronomers about how star clusters form in the universe. When it comes to this equation of beauty plus science, there really isn’t another scientific instrument on Earth, or in orbit, that can compete with the Hubble telescope.

“Even the most optimistic person to whom you could have spoken back in 1990 couldn’t have predicted the degree to which Hubble would rewrite our astrophysics and planetary science textbooks,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the image-unveiling event. “A quarter-century later, Hubble has fundamentally changed our understanding of our universe, and our place in it.”

At its current pace, the Hubble telescope produces 10TB of new data per year — enough to fill the entire collection of the Library of Congress, Bolden said. At that same event, Kathy Flanagan, interim director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates Hubble’s science program, said scientists using data from the telescope have produced “nearly 13,000″ science papers.

This week, NASA hosted a Hubble symposium to discuss major science results from the telescope. The space agency also has hosted Hubble-themed events for the press and the general public, as well as a Friday night (April 24) gala to honor many of the people who made Hubble what it is today. Few, if any other, NASA projects have garnered such an ovation.

The climb to success

The Hubble telescope climbed to its current position at the peak of accomplishment from some deep valleys of near-failure.

In his book, “The Universe a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built it,” (Princeton University Press, 2008), science writer Robert Zimmerman chronicled the decades-long slogto get the Hubble telescope to where it is today. First, there was the chore of convincing the astronomy community to agree to invest in such a costly project, and then to get Congress to fund it, and to keep funding it during construction. It wasn’t just the telescope that suffered during those years; Zimmerman also wrote about people who dedicated themselves to Hubble at the expense of their careers or even their personal lives.

Planetary Nebula NGC 5189
A dying star expels is outer layers of material out into space, forming what’s known as a planetary nebula. Shown here, nebula NGC 5189, imaged by the Hubble telecope.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Hubble Space Telescope was originally scheduled to blast off in 1983 but didn’t get off the ground until 1990. Shortly after the telescope’s launch, the scientific team realized the images they were receiving were blurry. It turned out that the telescope’s mirror was ground ever so slightly to the wrong thickness. (The flaw arose because of a mistake with the testing equipment used during the mirror’s construction.)

In 1993, the first Hubble servicing mission installed hardware that could adjust for the flaw in the mirror, and the telescope quickly blossomed to its full potential. Itrevealed new information at every size scale, from the solar system to the entire observable universe. Hubble has found four new moons around Pluto, demonstrated that galaxies frequently collide and merge together, drastically improved measurements of the age of the universe, and showed that space is not only expanding but spreading out faster and faster.

By 2003, Hubble had provided more than a decade of valuable science and beautiful images. At that point, it could have retired and still been labeled a success. But plans were in the works to add two new instruments to Hubble and repair two instruments that had stopped working. [Photos: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions]

The fifth and thus-far final crewed repair mission to Hubble took place in 2009. That mission is a microcosm of Hubble’s life story: full of close callsthat nearly spelled disaster for the telescope, like when a bolt holding down a handrail wouldn’t come loose and nearly prevented the astronauts from getting to one of the instruments that needed fixing.

In the end, the mission was a complete success. The astronauts installed two new instruments, fixed two broken instruments, and installed new batteries, new gyroscopes and a new scientific computer, to prolong Hubble’s life. Today, it continues to be one of the most powerful, most in-demand telescopes in the world.

What the future holds

So, what’s next for the Hubble Space Telescope?

“Frankly, we never even thought that the telescope would last this long,” Bolden said at the image-unveiling event. “The original plan for Hubble, we were told, wasmaybe 15 years. The fact that we are still going strong a quarter-century later is thanks to the Hubble heroes […] many of whom you will never know.”

Hubble will stop taking data someday, but right now, NASA has no firm decommissioning date because the observatory is operating better than anyone expected more than five years after its last servicing. [Hubble Space Telescope: Kill Or Save It? (Video)]

Right now, the Hubble team members aim to keep the telescope running through at least 2020. If Hubble can reach that goal, it should overlap with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch into space in 2018.

The Horsehead Nebula in 2013
The Horsehead Nebula, which can be found in the constellation Orion, was discovered over a century ago. But few images of the nebula compare to this one taken by the Hubble telescope in 2013.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

While the Hubble telescope sees mostly optical and ultraviolet light, the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope sees infrared light, and it will peer even deeper into the universe than Hubble has. The James Webb telescope has a larger mirror — 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) wide, compared to Hubble’s 7.9-foot (2.4 m) mirror — and will have a more powerful camera. And yet, it’s hard to think how any future telescopes will fill the shoes Hubble leaves behind.

The Hubble telescope cannot maintain its orbit forever — if left alone, it will fall to Earth and be destroyed, likely in the mid- to late 2030s. NASA officials have said they won’t let an uncontrolled re-entry happen, because people on the ground could be hurt by falling Hubble parts. So the agency has two options: Either steer Hubble to a safe destruction over the Pacific Ocean, or boost the telescope to a higher orbit (and possibly refurbish it one more time).

The time frame of Hubble’s ultimate fate remains up in the air, because no one knows for sure how much longer Hubble will keep producing good science. (Zimmerman said he’ll bet that if the Hubble telescope is still working when the time comes to capture it, NASA will find a way to put it back into a steady orbit.)

Twenty-five years after the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment, the iconic observatory’s birthday celebration is not a memorial. Hubble is currently performing better than when it started, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the telescope that has ascended to such great heights may not yet have reached the pinnacle of its accomplishments.

Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on


What Is a Geosynchronous Orbit?

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on April 26, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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What Is a Geosynchronous Orbit?

A geosynchronous orbit is a high Earth orbit that allows satellites to match Earth’s rotation. Located at 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above Earth’s equator, this position is a valuable spot for monitoring weather, communications and surveillance.

“Because the satellite orbits at the same speed that the Earth is turning, the satellite seems to stay in place over a single longitude, though it may drift north to south,” NASA wrote on its Earth Observatory website.

Satellites are designed to orbit Earth in one of three basic orbits defined by their distance from the planet: low Earth orbit, medium Earth orbit or high Earth orbit. The higher a satellite is above Earth (or any other world for that matter), the slower it moves. This is because of the effect of Earth’s gravity; it pulls more strongly at satellites that are closer to its center than satellites that are farther away.

So a satellite at low Earth orbit — such as the International Space Station, at roughly 250 miles (400 km) — will move over the surface, seeing different regions at different times of day. Those at medium Earth orbit (between about 2,000 and 35,780 km, or 1,242 and 22,232 miles) move more slowly, allowing for more detailed studies of a region. At geosynchronous orbit, however, the orbital period of the satellite matches the orbit of the Earth (roughly 24 hours), and the satellite appears virtually still over one spot; it stays at the same longitude, but its orbit may be tilted, or inclined, a few degrees north or south.

geostationary, geo-satellites, geosynchronous orbit, geostationary orbit, geosynchronous orbit altitude, altitude of geosynchronous orbit
This image depicts the geostationary equatorial orbit in which most communications and weather satellites are located.
Credit: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


A satellite in geosynchronous orbit can see one spot of the planet almost all of the time. For Earth observation, this allows the satellite to look at how much a region changes over months or years. The drawback is the satellite is limited to a small parcel of ground; if a natural disaster happens elsewhere, for example, the satellite won’t be able to move there due to fuel requirements.

This is a large benefit for the military. If, for example, the United States is concerned about activities in a certain region of the world — or it wants to see how its troops are doing — a geosynchronous orbit allows constant pictures and other surveillance of one particular region. An example of this is the United States’ Wideband Global SATCOM 5, which launched in 2013. Joining a “constellation” of four other WGS satellites, it extends the military’s communications system to provide blanket coverage over virtually the entire planet. The network serves troops, ships, drones and civilian leaders and is supposed to provide communications for ground personnel.

Communications for civilians also benefit from geosynchronous orbit. There are numerous companies that provide telephone, Internet, television and other services from satellites in that orbital slot. Because the satellite is constantly hovering over one spot on the ground, communications from that location are reliable as long as the satellite is well connected to the location you want to communicate with.

Orbital competition

According to Satellite Signals, there are 402 satellites in geosynchronous orbit. At geosynchronous orbit, the “ring” around Earth can accommodate a number of satellites — 1,800 altogether, according to one analysis by Lawrence Roberts, published in the Berkeley Technology Law Review. However, there are obvious space and technological limitations.

Specifically, satellites must remain in a very confined area and not drift too far from their assigned “slot” above Earth; otherwise they may pose a threat to other satellites. The International Telecommunication Union assigns slots for geosynchronous orbit and settles disputes between countries about slots.

Similarly, it is considered good practice to move almost-dead satellites into a “graveyard” orbit above geosynchronous orbit before they run out of fuel, to clear the way for the next generation.

The satellites must also be located far enough away from each other so their communications don’t interfere with each other, which could mean a separation of anything between 1 and 3 degrees. As technology has improved, it’s possible to pack more satellites into a smaller spot.

Listeria Infection: Symptoms & Treatment


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Listeria Infection: Symptoms & Treatment

Listeriosis, commonly called listeria, is an infection caused by eating Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the past few years, listeria has been responsible for dozens of food product recalls, numerous hospital visits and even deaths. In fact, according to the CDC, listeria causes 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths each year in the United States.Causes
Listeria is typically caused by eating contaminated foods, according to the Mayo Clinic. Listeria lives naturally in soil and water in the environment and it is possible for vegetables to become contaminated by listeria when growing in contaminated soil, or when manure is used a fertilizer, Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told Live Science.

Other common ways someone can come into contact with L. monocytogenes is by consuming meat products obtained from animals that carry listeria but don’t show any symptoms. This is particularly true if the meat was not cooked. Foods that are made from unpasteurized milk are also common culprits, said John R. Palisano, a professor of biology at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee
Once the bacteria are consumed, listeria travels through the gastrointestinal tract and eventually to the bloodstream. “Listeria-producing toxins can actually damage cells. One of Listeria’s favorite places to invade is the nervous system. This invasive bacteria can grow there, leading to meningitis or even encephalitis,” said Dr. Jane Frederick, FACOG, a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the HRC Fertility in Orange County, California.

Listeria has a trick to infect a patient. “Listeria monocytogenes is sneaky because it hides inside our cells, and it can travel from cell to cell without leaving the intracellular environment, making it very hard for the immune cells and immune molecules in our blood to “see” it and attack it. Its deadly weapons are powerful poisons (toxins) that it can release and cause us great harm.” Dr. Aileen M. Marty a professor of infectious diseases at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, told Live Science.

Listeria is particularly dangerous for those with a weakened immune system, older adults or women who are pregnant, according to the Mayo Clinic. “One of the reasons it is so scary for pregnant mothers is that these special proteins help the bacterium cross the ‘placental barrier’ that normally protects the growing baby from germs in the mother’s blood,” said Marty. Contracting listeria while pregnant can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, premature delivery or a life-threatening infection for the newborn.

The symptoms of listeria include headache, fever, chills, upset stomach and vomiting, according to the National Library of Medicine. Pregnant women usually only experience mild, flu-like symptoms, though, accord to the New York State Department of Health.


Because listeria has symptoms that are much like the flu, a doctor will need to run tests beyond just a physical examination. A blood test is the most common way to determine if a person is suffers from listeria. A doctor may also order urine or spinal fluid tests, as well, according to the Mayo Clinic.


In many cases, those infected with listeria will simply need to let their immune system fight through the disease. Those with more severe cases, newborns or those who are pregnant are often prescribed antibiotics, according to the Mayo Clinic.


The best way to prevent listeria is by using careful food preparation techniques. Palisano gave these tips for avoiding the bacteria that causes listeria:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables with a clean brush for 20 seconds in warm soapy water. “Even if the skin of vegetables or husk of fruit, like melons, is not eaten, they should be properly cleaned before they are cut up,” Palisano added.
  • All meat should be properly cooked.
  • All milk products should be made with pasteurized milk to minimize the risk of contaminating food.
  • Meat that is properly cooked at a factory can become contaminated after cooking, but before packaging, so unopened hot dogs or luncheon meats should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than two weeks, and opened packages for less than one week.
  • Food handlers should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water when working with food.
  • Don’t use the same knife or cutting board for vegetables after using these items to cut uncooked meat. Also, knives used on vegetables and fruit should not be used to cut cooked meat unless they are properly cleaned.
  • Unlike most bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes can grow in refrigerators, so use caution when storing foods that might be contaminated with listeria.

Additional resources

y listeria but don’t show any symptoms. This is particularly true if the meat was not cooked. Foods that are made from unpasteurized milk are also common culprits, said John R. Palisano, a professor of biology at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Melanoma Tumor ‘Dissolves’ After 1 Dose of New Drug Combo


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Melanoma Tumor ‘Dissolves’ After 1 Dose of New Drug Combo

A large melanoma tumor on a woman’s chest disappeared so quickly that it left a gaping hole in its place after she received a new treatment containing two melanoma drugs, a new case report finds.

Doctors are still monitoring the 49-year-old woman, but she was free of melanoma — a type of skin cancer that can be deadly — at her last checkup, said the report’s lead author, Dr. Paul Chapman, an attending physician and head of the melanoma section at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

The woman took the same two drugs as more than 100 people with melanoma who took part in a recent study. For most of the study participants who took these drugs, the combination worked better than one drug alone. But the doctors were surprised by how well the drug combination worked to treat this particular woman’s cancer — they had not anticipated that a melanoma tumor could disappear so quickly that it would leave a cavity in the body — and thus wrote the report describing her case.

“What was unusual was the magnitude [of recovery], and how quickly it happened,” Chapman told Live Science. However, doctors are wary of the drug combination because it does not work for everyone, and can have side effects, such as severe diarrhea. [10 Do’s and Don’ts to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer]

Both the study of the drug combination and the woman’s case report were published Monday (April 20) in the New England Journal of Medicine. The drug combination is part of a relatively recent approach to treating melanoma with medications that boost a person’s own immune system, called immunotherapy.

One of the drugs in the combination was ipilimumab (sold under the brand name Yervoy), which works by removing an inhibitory mechanism that can stop certain immune cells from killing cancer cells.

In the study, researchers combined ipilimumab with another drug, called nivolumab (brand name Opdivo), which can prevent immune cells called T cells from dying, Chapman said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ipilimumab and nivolumab separately as melanoma drugs but has not approved their combined use. The researchers’ study was aimed at testing how the two drugs worked when used in tandem.

In the study, doctors gave treatments to 142 people with metastatic melanoma (melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body) — some participants received the combination, and others received ipilimumab plus a placebo. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who had received which treatment until the trial had ended.

Melanoma tumor, before and after treatment
A woman with melanoma developed a large tumor on her abdomen (A), but after one combination treatment of two immunotherapy drugs, it disappeared (B) within three weeks.
Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine, Copyright 2015.

The new drug combination had better results than the ipilimumab-plus-placebo treatment, the researchers found.

In one analysis, the researchers focused on 109 patients who did not have a mutation in a gene called the BRAF gene. (BRAF mutations are linked to a number of cancers, including melanoma, and there are other melanoma drugs that target BRAF mutations.) Among the 72 people in this group who took the combination, 61 percent saw their cancer shrink, compared with just 11 percent of the 37 people in the group who took only ipilimumab.

What’s more, melanoma was undetectable in 22 percent of the combination group at the end of the study, which was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes the drugs. None of the people taking ipilimumab plus a placebo saw their melanoma disappear by the time the study had ended.

Twenty-two percent may not sound high, but in the world of melanoma treatment, it is significant, said Dr. Sylvia Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Lee was not involved in the new study, but she is working with patients who are receiving the drug combination in Seattle.

A complete response to treatment is “the Holy Grail,” she said. “That’s what everyone wants, where all of the cancer disappears. We’re talking about patients with stage IV melanoma. Usually, in cancers, when someone has stage IV disease, for the majority of people, it’s no longer curable.” [Medicine’s Journey Through the Body: 4 Stages]

It’s unclear whether melanoma will reoccur in any of the patients in the new study. Doctors are following them to see whether the people who are taking the combination drugs live longer than expected, Chapman said.

Side effects

However, the ipilimumab with nivolumab combination comes with serious side effects, such as colitis (swelling of the colon), diarrhea and problems with the endocrine glands (which produce hormones).

About 54 percent of the patients in the study who were taking the combination reported serious side effects, compared with 24 percent of the people taking only ipilimumab, the researchers found.

The treatments are given three weeks apart, but some people can tolerate only one or two treatments out of the suggested four before they stop taking the medicine, Lee said. In the new study, about 60 percent of the participants taking the combination finished all four treatments, compared with 70 percent of the ipilimumab-only group.

The side effects can be brutal, Lee said. “This is diarrhea that is 25 to 40 times a day,” she said.

Future trials may help researchers refine the number of treatments needed and figure out how effective just one or two treatments can be. The current trial is over, but certain cancer centers are still offering the drug combination through an expanded access program, which is how the woman whose tumor disappeared got the medicine.

Her case shows that immunotherapy can work quickly: Her tumor vanished within three weeks of receiving her first treatment, the researchers found.

“I was astonished; I’d never seen anything like that,” Chapman said. “She said the tumor had just kind of dissolved.”

However, the combination may pose a risk if it dissolves a tumor somewhere else the body, and leaves a hole behind.

“I think that it is a huge concern,” Lee said. “It is something to consider if you do have a patient with a tumor [invading] a vital organ.”

The medications are also pricey. Ipilimumab costs $120,000 for four treatments, and nivolumab is priced at $12,500 a month, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, the drug combination may offer a new and promising treatment for people with melanoma if the FDA approves it, Chapman said.

“It kind of confirms an assumption that we’ve all had for many decades: that the immune system can recognize cancers and can kill large tumors if properly activated,” Chapman said.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science@livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Half the US Faces Earthquake Risk


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Half the US Faces Earthquake Risk

PASADENA, Calif. — Earthquakes threaten roughly half the U.S. population, a new study finds.

More than 143 million Americans live in earthquake-prone regionsin the Lower 48 states, according to research presented here Wednesday (April 22) at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America. If you include Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, that number rises to about 150 million U.S. citizens, said lead researcher Kishor Jaiswal, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contractor.

In a previous estimate prepared in 1991, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said 75 million people in 35 states were at risk of earthquakes.

Now, more people are living in quake-prone areas than a quarter-century ago, Jaiswal said. The USGS has also learned more about earthquake hazards. The nation’s most recent national seismic hazard maps are much more detailed than the 1996 version, Jaiswal said. [Image Gallery: This Millennium’s Destructive Earthquakes]

As many as 28 million people in the 48 contiguous states could feel strong shaking in their lifetimes, he added. The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale defines “strong shaking” as being frightening to many people, with some heavy furniture moved across the floor and a few instances of fallen plaster.

Jaiswal and colleagues from the USGS, FEMA and the California Geological Survey analyzed the nation’s earthquake risks by combining the 2014 National Seismic Hazard Maps with LandScan, a global population database. The 2014 map only covers the 48 contiguous states; Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico will be updated in coming years.

The research team also calculated the potential financial losses from earthquakes, using 2010 Census data and the 2012 replacement-cost values for buildings. The average economic hit from building damage in the contiguous states was $4.5 billion, with 80 percent of the losses concentrated in California, Oregon and Washington. However, the study researchers also found areas susceptible to building losses on the East Coast.

“The bottom line is that there are a significant number of structures located amongst higher-hazard levels,” Jaiswal said.

The study revealed more than 6,000 fire stations, more than 800 hospitals, and nearly 20,000 public and private schools that are built on shaky ground.

The study does not account for the spate of induced earthquakes, which are man-made quakes linked to wastewater injection wells and hydraulic fracturing, Jaiswal said. “There are 140 million people exposed to earth-shaking hazards, but that number could be even higher if you include induced seismicity,” he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey has since issued new hazard maps that focus on man-made earthquakes and that will help people evaluate their risk of shaking from these quakes.

Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow Live Science @livescience,Facebook &Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Man-Made Earthquakes Rising in US, New Maps Show

PASADENA, Calif. — New earthquake hazard maps signal a watershed moment: They show that fracking’s byproducts are clearly to blame for swarms of earthquakes plaguing several states.

The maps highlight 17 hotspots where communities face a significantly increased risk ofearthquakes, and the accompanying report links the earthquakes to wastewater injection wells. Previous maps did not include earthquakes that are induced by human activities.

“We consider induced seismicity to be primarily triggered by the disposal of wastewater into deep wells,” said Mark Petersen, chief of the National Seismic Hazard Project for the U.S. Geological Survey, which released the maps today (April 23). [Image Gallery: This Millennium’s Destructive Earthquakes]

The earthquake hotspots include the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Ohio, Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico. Until recently, many of these states were some of the places in the United States least likely to have an earthquake. But then, high oil prices brought in companies eager to exploit ancient seabeds where oil and gas mingle with brine.

Seismic Hazard Map
The new seismic hazard map shows the shaking risk from manmade earthquakes.
Credit: USGS

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, extracts far more water from these underground oil-laden rocks than traditional drilling. Currently, there is no way to treat, store and release the billions of gallons of wastewater at the surface. Instead, drillers pump the fluid back underground, below groundwater, where it sometimes triggers earthquakes.

For instance, in Oklahoma, state records show that companies injected more than 1.1 billion barrels of wastewater into the ground in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. The following year, Oklahoma had more magnitude-3 earthquakes than California. The quakes clustered around wastewater injection wells.

Oklahoma’s current earthquake rate is now 600 times higher than its prefracking rate, which was based on the state’s natural seismicity, the state geological survey said Monday.

“We suspect the vast majority of these earthquakes are from produced wastewater,” said Austin Holland, head seismologist for the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Fracking itself can also induce earthquakes, but the technique has never caused earthquakes greater than magnitude 4. For comparison, an Oklahoma injection welltriggered a magnitude-5.6 earthquake in 2011. Mining blasts and geothermal energy plants can also trigger earthquakes.

Quake road map

Until now, the USGS has usually excluded man-made or induced earthquakes from its earthquake hazard maps. The researchers who make the maps assume earthquake rates are more or less the same through time, and that’s not the case with man-made quakes.

“These earthquakes are different from natural earthquakes because they turn on and off over short periods of time, sometimes over a period of a year,” Petersen said.

Seismic Hazard Map - Oklahoma
The U.S. Geological Survey’s seismic hazard map, zoomed in on Oklahoma.
Credit: USGS

So even as north central Oklahoma and Texas were suffering swarms of earthquakes, the 2014 hazard map showed little to no shaking risk for these states. The national map shows where earthquakes may strike in the next 50 years, how big they might be and how strong the shaking could get.

But now, there is no way for scientists to ignore the incredible rise in earthquakes in the central United States. With input from more than 150 scientists, the USGS decided to release a separate earthquake hazard map for man-made earthquakes. Researchers gauged a region’s shaking risk by first looking for changing earthquake rates. Then, the scientists counted the previous year’s temblors to forecast the next year’s tally.

A one-year model is not useful for issuing building codes, but it is helpful for planning future activities, such as where to spend limited funds on bridge repairs, said Bill Ellsworth, a USGS seismologist who is studying injection well earthquakes.

A simplified version of the man-made earthquake hazard map will be published by the end of the year and will be updated yearly thereafter, Ellsworth said. (The agency will continue to issue the long-term forecasts every six years.) Scientists are still fine-tuning models that predict the shaking strength from man-made earthquakes, which tend to be shallower than natural quakes.

Researchers involved in the mapping project called for expanded seismic networks and public access to well-injection records yesterday (April 22) here at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America. Only a few injection wells cause headaches, so this data would help determine whether the small earthquakes at wells could lead to more damaging ones later on.

“This monitoring would fundamentally change how often and how accurately we can update these maps,” said Andy Michael, a USGS geophysicist in Menlo Park, California, who was involved in the project.

Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow Live Science @livescience,Facebook &Google+. Originally published on Live Science.