How Is Science Helping To Improve Reproduction?

Science has helped humans come on leaps and bounds over the past hundred years. We are now able to use and create technology that is incredibly advanced. Not only does it make our lives a lot more convenient, but it can also make them a lot healthier and safer as well.

There have been so many tech developments in the world of healthcare and medicine over the past few decades that humans have never been able to lead such healthy lives. Not only that, though, but reproduction and having babies has also been made easier for some couples as well. For some couples who have certain fertility issues, it could have been extremely difficult for them to conceive a baby naturally. These days, though, many of these couples are now able to start a family thanks to new scientific methods.

That’s just one of the ways science has helped to improve reproduction – read on to find out about some others!

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Improved Diagnosis Of Fertility Issues

Doctors can now diagnose fertility issues in people a lot quicker these days thanks to scientific improvements in the diagnostic process. Any men who are worried about their fertility can now go to a fertility clinic and take advantage of their computer aided sperm analysis service. As these computers aren’t that advanced just yet, some fertility clinics still get a laboratory andrologist to take a look at the sperm to see for themselves. However, the use of the computer analysis still speeds up the diagnosis process so that men can get the treatment they need much quicker. Scientific advancements have also shortened the diagnostic time for women as well, and any female fertility problems can be swiftly picked up.

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Better Treatments To Help Reproduction Problems

When a fertility problem has been correctly diagnosed, it is them important that the couple get the necessary treatment that will allow them to conceive. After years of research, there are now a few different treatments that can help improve the rates of reproduction in couples who do have some issues. Even though IVF has been used by a lot of couples for some years now, many scientific developments over the past decade or so have slightly improved this whole process.

LGBT Couples Have The Chance To Be Parents

Thanks to the development of medical procedures like artificial insemination and IVF with a donor egg or sperm, LGBT couples are now able to become parents if they wish. All they need to do is find a willing donor who will donate the sperm or the egg that is needed. More often than not, it is usually a close friend who donates, but there are now agencies that match up couples and donors. The artificial insemination can then be done at home – this is known as the turkey basting method. However, for better success rates, this should be carried out in a hospital where science can be used to improve the chances of the process working.

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The Risk Of Certain Diseases Can Be Reduced

Have you heard the term “designer baby”? This has been a bit of a buzzword for the past few years or so and it has become quite a controversial topic as it is thought that this new science could be misused by some couples. There is now scientific methods that give scientists and doctors the chance to alter the DNA and genetic makeup of a fetus at the point of contraception. Even though this can be used for a lot of good, such as removing any potentially dangerous genes that could result in the development of a life-threatening disease, it does mean that simple things like the sex and eye color of a baby can be altered. Many people disagree with using this technology for changing non-dangerous features of a baby, like hair and eye color, as it is just the same as playing God. Using this kind of science to create a technology isn’t legal in most countries just yet, but that might all change in the future.

Some Health Conditions Can Now Be Spotted Very Early

Of course, there are some health conditions that aren’t genetic and changing the genes of a baby might not be enough to prevent them. But recent developments have helped scientists come up with ways to spot these potential conditions while the baby is still in the womb. If these are spotted at an early stage of the pregnancy, then some treatments could be carried out during the pregnancy to try and help the baby, depending on what the health issue is. If there are no treatments that can be administered during the pregnancy, then at least doctors will have a head start on treatment as soon as the baby is born.

Endangered Species Are Being Helped To Reproduce

It isn’t just humans who are being helped by new and improved scientific process and technology in reproduction. A lot of animals have benefited from many recent developments as well. For instance, many endangered species that used to struggle to reproduce, such as pandas, now have an easier time conceiving. Some fertility treatments that are used on humans, such as IVF, have been trialled in certain species with positive results. Not only that, though, but other treatments and methods have also been used to try to encourage more sexual activity between animals as well.

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Science Can Prevent Reproduction For Couples Who Don’t Want A Baby

It’s also possible to look at things from the other side of the coin. Thanks to science, couples who do not wish to conceive and have a baby can now have sex without worrying about the implications. There are now many different methods of contraception, including the pill and hormone injections, that will make it almost impossible for them to conceive. These are great for couples who aren’t yet ready to start a family or just don’t want to have kids at all.

As you can see, there are many cool ways in which science is helping reproduction!

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Feed the World: How Can We Make More of Our Crops?

Image Credit: ReSplashed

With a growing population of humans, the strain on the land is certainly showing. This means that we need to find new ways to feed ourselves without ruining the environment. In other words, we need to figure out the optimal way to sustain our population long term.

Enter agronomy.

This is the science of figuring out how to produce more food, keep the soil healthy and even develop healthier foods. While you might think that this depends on GM crops, it is actually much more diverse and takes in all kinds of methods such as crop rotation, the best fertilizers and pest control too.

Specialists such as MKC have been working on various agronomy techniques for years and can offer all sorts of valuable advice. You can contact us for more information, but in the meantime, here are a few things you can do yourself to make the most of your land.

Selective Breeding

One of the best ways to produce excellent crops is to select your breeding plants very carefully. Gardeners and farmers have been doing this for hundreds of years and it is quite a simple process. All you need to do is pick your best plants and breed them together, then do the same over and again until you notice the characteristics you are looking for.

If you aren’t comfortable with GM crops, you can use selective pollination to breed the healthiest plants in order to encourage those traits. Over a few generations, you should see some significant differences and be able to produce bigger crops, more resistant crops or even novel, unique crops.

Mixed Cropping

Sometimes when looking for ways to innovate and improve current methods, the past is a good place to look. Planting single crops is a relatively recent idea, but before the industrialization of agriculture, farmers would plant multiple crops in the same field. With the right crops planted together, this can still create the perfect situation for crops to grow. This is called mixed cropping.

Even on a large farm, mixing crops like maize, beans and pumpkins is a great way to improve the way that your crops grow, keeping the soil in good condition and optimizing the yield you get. With the different species of crops, you will also attract different beneficial insects, creating a fabulous biodiversity.

Technological Advances

Though we tend to think of technology as a cause of environmental problems, it is also the best chance we have of understanding the environment and optimizing conditions to improve the situation. In fact, whether you use technology to track changes, control climates or monitor results, you can certainly find a way to put it to good use.

As more and more food is required, it is important that farmers look to every possible way of improving crops and looking after the soil they grow in. Choosing the right crops through selective breeding, planting complementary crops together to create a biodiverse growing area and using technology to track results can all work together to build the future of agricultural practice.

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The Big Cosmic Show – Total Eclipse 2017

Hi everyone! On August 21st, the solar eclipse took place and what a show it was. The path of totality, where one would see a total eclipse, crossed the U.S.A. from Oregon to South Carolina. I had heard the reports that there would be tremendous traffic in the areas around the path of totality, but, being within 100 miles of a total eclipse for the first time in my life, I decided to go for it. I’d never seen a total solar eclipse and felt it would be almost criminal for me to miss this one because of fears of heavy traffic. And, to get an idea of what to look for during a total eclipse, and also ways of making pinhole viewers, I checked out YouTube, which can be very helpful in finding out about lot’s of things.

The Trip There

I was prepared. Totality in Salem, Oregon would take place around 10:17am local time, so, I got up around 4am and left about 5:15am. I mapped out a back road route in advance and armed with my maps, gps, and a packed lunch, eclipse glasses, a home-made pinhole viewer, and my camera, I set out. Traffic going to Salem was much better than I expected and I arrived there in about an hour and 15 minutes, which is near normal. I realized, people had been arriving over the previous 4 to 5 days, so the influx was more gradual, and I figured this might be the case, but, being a possible once-in-a-lifetime event, I wasn’t taking any chances.

My Viewing Site

I didn’t go to one of the advertised venues, but instead opted for a supermarket parking lot on the east side of Salem. I found easy, and free, parking. The beautiful thing about an event like this is, you can view it from anywhere, it’s not like a greatly anticipated movie, rock concert, or sports event where you have to go to a specific place, this is visible across a wide path from anywhere in town or between towns for that matter.

There were a few others there, including someone with a telescope, using it to project an image of the sun and eclipse on a large white sheet of paper, and this was actually more effective and safer than the glasses, and more detailed than the pinhole viewer, though the pinhole viewer was definitely effective in showing the advancing eclipse.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017. Man with telescope using it to project image of eclipse on large white paper. Looks great! – 8/21/2017

Remember! – Never look at the sun without certified eclipse glasses or filters! Best and safest is to look indirectly using a projection on a surface or a pinhole viewer! Otherwise your eyes can be damaged instantly! Only during totality in an eclipse is it safe to look with the naked eye!

What I Saw

At first, when the eclipse started, you didn’t notice much darkening or lessening of the amount of light. What you could notice, as I had learned from YouTube, is that, the light coming through the leaves of a tree will actually show the crescent sun as the eclipse advances! I saw this for myself! And, this effect is visible whether or not the eclipse itself is total, partial, or annular. (Where the moon doesn’t quite cover the sun but leaves a full circle of light instead of totality.)

Total Solar Eclipse 2017. Crescent suns on the ground after totality as seen through the tree leaves. – 8/21/2017

There is another effect which is sometimes happens just before and after totality, called “shadow snakes”, in which these shimmering shadowy lines appear, but this is somewhat rare and I didn’t see this, but, in retrospect, I could see where it may have been close to happening.

As the light dims, which you do start to notice at around 85-90 percent totality, it looks different from the dimming of light when the sun sets normally or when clouds move in. And, you can “See” the moon’s shadow coming, as a darkening of the sky. It also looked to be changing to a darker blue, again, different from a normal sunset. And, the street and parking lot lights come on as well! Then, totality hits and it gets almost as dark as night much quicker than it would in a normal sunset. At this point, you can look at the sun without protection, with the naked ye, safely. And what a sight!

Total Solar Eclipse 2017. Sun in totality. Light from corona makes sun look like it is shining but in actuality, it is dark as it is covered by the moon, which one would see in person or with a better camera. – 8/21/2017

You do see the sun’s corona from behind the moon, which is a pitch black circle in the sky. You can also see stars and planets. I saw Venus, which, where it was, would be completely obscured by the sun’s light before and after totality. In the photo I took, the light of the corona does overwhelm the dark circle of the moon, and no photo does it justice.

The temperature does drop, though I was too engrossed in the eclipse to really notice it myself. Also, all along the horizon, you see distant light as in a sunset, but overhead and nearly to the horizon, it’s a night sky! They refer to this as a “360 degree sunset or sunrise” And it is really different and worth seeing.

Where I was, totality lasted about a minute and 56 seconds roughly. When the sun starts reappearing, there’s a sort of flash at one end of the moon’s rim making it look like a diamond ring. At this time it is no longer safe to look at the sun with the naked eye!

And, the light again looks different from normal sunlight. It first looks like the light is coming from a very powerful electric spotlight from far away, like standing in a big football or athletic field at night with only one light on, shining down on the filed. Then, still slowly but seemingly faster than before totality, the light starts coming back, still with that strange dimness, but then returns to normal. And, on the projection of the sun or through a pinhole viewer, you see a now reappearing and growing crescent sun, the crescent appearing on the opposite side.

Though the totality only lasts a very short time, the partial eclipse usually lasts about two hours, so you can still use the pinhole viewer to view the remaining partial eclipse.

In Conclusion – My Thoughts

Total Solar Eclipse 2017. Me just after the totality phase of the eclipse, as shown on the projection in the background. – 8/21/2017

I had considered staying where I lived to view the eclipse, where it would be 99.2 percent totality, but everything I’d read from those who had seen a total eclipse said that there was a huge difference, like the difference between “going to the prom vs actually getting married”, or “hitting 5 numbers in the lottery vs hitting 5 plus the mega or power number for the top jackpot”, so I went and it was worth it! It did take me 2 1/2 hours to get home using back roads, but I’d do it again even if it took me twice as long to get home! I found that the comparisons that I read bout are true and I’m glad I went down to Salem to see my first total solar eclipse! It was quite a show and not one to be missed!

Here’s  the video I took during the eclipse. Enjoy!

Happy Observing!

 

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Leapin’ Lizards, It’s Leap Day!

So, its February 29th, that special day that comes every 4 years. A year with a February 29th is, as we all know, a “leap” year.

So, where did this come from? Well, there is a lot of history behind it, but, basically, in earlier times, they found that calendars, growing and planting seasons, and so on, were getting further and further off until it was realized that our planet’s year is not exactly 365 days. It really is closer to 365 ¼ days.

So, to insure that Christmas doesn’t eventually drift into what would now be July, an extra day was added to February every 4 years to catch up, or “leap” back to the correct time. Hence, the leap year, and leap day, February 29th.

Now, to be sure, the Earth doesn’t complete an orbit exactly in 365 ¼ days, and, the planet’s orbital speed and daily rotation changes imperceptibly over time, so, every so often the correct time is adjusted by a few seconds here and there. This so our days and years continue to match the seasons and our calendars.

So, Happy Leap Day, everyone!

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Our Brains: What We Really Have

You’ve put the cat in his room and have closed the door, so he won’t get into things while you sleep. All you had to do was to close the door. Then, later that night, there’s the smell of smoke. It wakes the cat, but he can’t get out of the room to warn you. Luckily, something else wakes you and you smell the smoke, locate its source, and prevent the fire.

Now, let’s say you had no cat but a 5-year-old child. And, like the cat, you’ve closed the door to the child’s room. Like the cat, the child wakes up, smells smoke, and opens the door and wakes you in time, something the cat could not do or think of.

That’s because of our brains. We’re so caught up in our lives, that we seldom think about the advantages that our brains give us over the other animals.

Oh, they’re obvious enough to us to the point that we never ask our pets to bring us a glass of water, but we don’t really think about it. Especially when it comes to comprehension, which I believe might be the true 6th sense.

And yet it can be seen in even seemingly unimportant things.

For instance, when I was much younger and living at home, we had various dogs, including 3 greyhounds at one point. It was quite cold one night and my folks put blankets over the dogs so they could keep warm. Of course, overnight, the dogs would move and the blankets would come off.

So, when I awoke first that morning and noticed the now uncovered dogs still sleeping, my thought was that I wished that they could think of grabbing the blankets with their mouths and pull the blankets back up over them.  A human child would have thought to reach for the blanket and cover himself again. The difference amazed me then and still does now. And I realized just how powerful this ability, that we humans have, to think and comprehend really is.

And while chimpanzees and dolphins have shown signs of having greater comprehension than other animals, they still don’t have it to the extent that humans do.

And it’s quite a gift. To see a stick and know immediately that you can use it to pry up a rock, or to see the notepad that you have and immediately know to use it as a temporary shield against the sudden rain as you run to your car.

Just something to think about.

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Shrinking Time

Time flies. Time flies? Yes, and ever faster!

When I was about 6 years old, my grandmother was telling me how I would finish grade school, go on to high school, and then college at 18. Well, for me at the time, a year was nearly forever, and age 18 seemed to be so far away time wise that there wasn’t enough time in the universe to reach that age!

Well, I certainly did reach 18, and the 4 years of high school seemed to pass far more quickly than I would have ever imagined at age 6. And, when I entered college, I saw that I was almost as old as professional ball players.

Then, before I knew it, I’d reached my 30’s and, when I thought about it, I realized that many students graduating high school at this point hadn’t even been born yet when I’d graduated!

Now, some years later, not only have most of the professional ball players at the time I graduated retired, but their replacements have, too!

And that year’s time that seemed nearly forever to my 6-year-old self, is nearly next month to me now.

So, why does time seem to “rocket” by now, and why is that everlasting year seeming to last only a month now? Is it just me?

The truth is, no, it’s not just me, but everyone feels this as they get older. I read once that this has to do with a “kind of relativity” or changing perspective as one gets older.

As the article explained, to a six-year-old kid, a year is one sixth of his lifetime. To a sixty year old person, one year is only one sixtieth of his lifetime. To look at it another way, it would take 10 years for the 60-year-old to “feel” the same length of time has passed that the 6-year-old would feel with just 1 year passing. This is why, more and more, it feels to me like time is not just flying, but “rocketing” past.

I don’t know if this is just mental, or physiological as well. But it does make sense to me. I remember as a kid, hearing my parents and other adults refer to times 20 and 30 years past and thinking it was like ancient history to me. And now, I can recall times 20 and 30 years in my past, and it doesn’t seem that long ago.

It’s pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.

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Driver-less Cars, the Way of the Future?

Recently, there was an article about driver-less cars on Yahoo. it was quite interesting, dealing with both facts and possibilities as to what it could mean. The article talked about how laws might have to be rewritten, insurance rates and accident rates would go down, and how there would be a “transition” from the cars we now have to the driver-less variety. So, what are some of the issues and what are some of the facts?

How close are we to having driver-less cars become commonplace? They are being developed now, and Google actually has a working model, but they are still in their infancy. Most likely, the first ones that are made available to the public will be very expensive, as is usually the case with any new technology. And like the newest technology, they will have the least features and most bugs. As to how far away the first generation of widely produced and seen models are, some articles on the subject say that it could be in as little as ten years’ time. But a lot of hurdles will need to be overcome, and they are not just about the technology.

Even if the first models available for public purchase make an excellent debut, many, many people will be reluctant to trust a vehicle to drive itself. I once read an article that said that the biggest reason that people fear flying is that they know that they have so little control if anything goes wrong. At least in a car, despite it being far less safe than flying, people feel that they are in control. People will perceive having less control being in a car that drives itself, and will be reluctant to trust driver-less cars. Of course, it depends how the technology is introduced. If gradually, with only a few functions being taken over by each progressive car model, then more people will get used to the idea of the fully driver-less car. However, even then, actually giving up the wheel itself will make many people reluctant.

Then there are other issues and questions.

Will a driver-less car really, really, be able to avoid an accident or be able to tell if a route has construction or some other obstacle ahead of time?

Can it predict, during the transition time from driver required to driver-less cars, what the driver of a driver required car will do?

And of course, “Can we now text, since we won’t be ‘driving'”

Then, there are those who just like the idea of driving themselves. In a world where there are only driver-less cars, you won’t be able to take those winding roads the way you  want to, for instance. And, that rite of passage of getting your first license may become history.

On the plus side, there’d be fewer illegal drag races, and drunk driving would be far less of a problem, hopefully leading to greatly reduced insurance rates.

And possibly, people who, today, cannot, or will not, drive, may have more transportation options on the table, since, you may no longer need a driver’s license.

To get some picture of the myths and facts of driver-less cars at this time, November, 2014, go to http://www.techrepublic.com/article/8-truths-and-myths-of-driverless-cars/

If driver-less cars become a reality, it could mean some really big changes down the road, so to speak.

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