Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Wallace Line

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Evolution, Biodiversity, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

A PBS Eons video (9 m 24 s) discusses a well-known barrier between two of the islands of Indonesia--"an ancient line that is both real and...not real."

It was first noticed by Alfred Russel Wallace who also is known for independently conceiving of the theory of evolution by natural selection. This served as a kick-in-the-britches to Charles Darwin to publish his findings on the theory. Darwin had conceived the idea earlier, but was busy collecting more data in support of this revolutionary idea *. 

Wallace is also known as the father of biogeography.

* An HHMI BioInteractive (31 m 02 s) provides a "biography of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace" tells the story of the "two independent discoveries of the natural origin of species." The video traverses the epic voyages and revolutionary insights...which changed biological science forever."

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Lyres and Lutes

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Culture,  Art & Environment, Models

Ed Hessler

Lee Lawrence, in her third Ingenuity Innovation entry for Aramco World, May / June 2023 asks what the following stringed musical instruments have in common: the Arabian ‘uds and European violins; Chinese pipas, Indian veenas; Indonesian rebabs, West African koras and American electric guitars and banjos—all are descended from lutes, a family of instruments whose shared DNA includes strings that run parallel across a flat soundboard or belly up a distinct pole or neck.

She notes that "there have been countless variations of lute forms over more than 4,000 years as people across the globe adopted, adapted and adjusted instruments to satisfy a preference, meet a need or indulge a curiosity. What if I … added strings? Modified the shape? Made the neck shorter? Longer? On and on—and along the way, some innovations proved as consequential as they were simple."

I'm delighted that she emphasizes the curiosity question: What if... a question routinely asked by inventors, designers, scientists, engineers but it has an added ingredient when it leads to Let's try it out, see what happens when the change is made.

A few highlights

--"At some point, an anonymous luthier doubled each of the four strings of an 'ud" which had effects on the instrument's design.

--In a treatise published in the 11th century BCE, the effects of doubling the number of strings on various parts of the lute was analyzed and recommendations were made on assembly and number of parts.

--"The oldest surviving lute was made around 1490 BCE in Egypt" --its construction is described. "Yet it was itself a descendant from far older instruments ...based on paintings, a cylinder seal.
and texts."

--There is a discussion of drums and stringed instruments, e.g., gourds  become stringed instruments when a "bridge and neck" are added.  This leads to a description of what bridges on stringed instruments do.

--The differences between lutes and lyres is used to shed light on pitches, rules of string length and frets, noticed long ago. This has led "Richard Dumbrill, co-founder of the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE)" to comment the exact similarity between and fret position over cultures and time to this implication. "It means that from Egypt to central Turkey, and probably in the rest of the Babylonian empire... they had a standard system."

--Innovations do repeat themselves and the example of coming up with the idea of a "floating bridge" after serious injury to a player when the fixed bridge snapped off. This occurred in 1957 but we learn that the musician buried with the oldest surviving lute which had a floating bridge  "around 1490 BCE."

The issue may be read here. The front cover of this issue features a picture of the living musical legend, Lakha Khan holding a hand-carved wooden sarangi.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Iberian Sailboats and Orcas

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Nature, Wildlife, Learning, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

An essay by Sasha Pare for LiveScience is recommended in the May 23rd Nature Briefing, a daily newsletter for the journal Nature. (The link to the essay is found at the end.) This is how Nature Briefing reported it.

"Orcas (Orcinus orca) have sunk three boats off the Iberian coast of Europe, and the behavior seems to be spreading. Biologists first noted the trend in 2020. They suspect that it is a defensive behaviour, which originated with a female orca nicknamed White Gladis after it experienced an unknown trauma. Iberian orcas (in Spanish and English) are critically endangered, and only 39 were recorded in the last census, in 2011."

A scientific report with multiple authors was published in Marine Mammal Science titled "Killer whales of the Strait of Gibraltar, an endangered subpopulation showing a disruptive behavior." The difference between the title of a scientific publication and a popular publication is not much for a change.  The senior author is Ruth Estaban. Just a smidgin of the article can be read but you can still learn more about the authors.

Sasha Pare reports on a recent attack and sinking of a sail boat, where orcas direct their attack, the skippers thoughts about the teaching he thinks is occurring (with another example), that the interactions are not uncommon (more than 500 since 2020 resulting in 3 sinkings), a couple of hypotheses - defensive behavior based on trauma or possibly a "fad "(those teenagers!). These whales are social creatures, observant and learn from the mother and siblings.

Pare closes with a quote from the scientific paper. "'If this situation continues or intensifies, it could become a real concern for the  mariners' safety and a conservation issue for this endangered subpopulation of killer whales.'" 
Here is Pare's reporting. Please read it.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Kelp Forests

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Earth & Space Sciences, Earth Systems, Sustainability, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

This "Where I Work" segment from the journal Nature features Loyiso Dungo. a conservationist and marine biologist who admits "I grew up deathly afraid of the ocean. But that changed in 2016, when I began mapping South Africa's kelp forests for my biology master's degree."

Dongo, who works for Parley for the Oceans, describes the experience of being in a kelp forest, South Africa's kelp forests, the mapping project, the growing demand for kelp - its use in toothpaste was a surprise, building sustainable kelp farms and his public advocacy work.
Life often surprises us, as it did Dungo.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

A Wonderful Extreme Extremophile

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Earth & Space Science

Ed Hessler

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has a beautiful photographs - a microphotograph, of a tardigrade on moss. The Wiki entry tells us that they are commonly called water bears or moss piglets. Take your pick. The image is in crystal clear focus. And who can't help but fall in love with them. I can't.

This image has something to do with space as you will learn. I might have "known" this once but if I did I no longer recall it.

What charismatic animals. For more about them see this article by William Randolph Miller written for the American Scientist with another great image and diagrams.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bird Calls Transcribed to Musical Instruments

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Wildlife, Nature, Biodiversity, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler

"Calls of the wild: A composer transcribes bird songs" is the title of CBS correspondent Faith Salie's conversation with composer Alexander Liebermann (Berlin). It was featured on CBS Sunday Morning for April 30, 2023. 

During the pandemic lockdown he turned to nature and listened to recordings of bird songs.  This led him to transcribe their complicated callas and translate them to musical instruments. This work is slow and I wish he had been asked to show us a page of the notations and make some remarks about their use.

You may be surprised by how little of bird songs we hear and how complicated they are. I found the transcriptions to musical instruments to be very pleasing and sometimes surprising.


Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Temperature Regulation in a Shark Species

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution, Nature of Science, Models

Ed Hessler

Leslie Orgel's second rule, well known among evolutionary biologists, is that "Evolution is cleverer than you are."  If you are unfamiliar with the rules or it has been a while since you read about them, I urge you to read the Wiki entry for a short explanation of  their origin as well as their meaning.

This quote from Nature Briefing, May 12 provides an example and is linked to a short news item in Nature News by Bianca Nogrody (May 11) . "When diving for delicious squid in the cold ocean depths, scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) apparently ‘hold their breath’. Being fish, they don’t breathe as such, but they seem to shut off water flowing over their gills, to keep their bodies warm. It’s the first time such behaviour has been spotted. Heat loss from gills is a key weakness for diving fish, because gills are 'essentially just giant radiators strapped to your head', says shark researcher Mark Royer."

These sharks are deep fishers for squid, making up to six dives per evening of some 800 m (2624 feet) where the water is about 20 degrees Celsius colder (5 to 11 degrees Celsius) than surface waters.

Here is a description of the techniques used. "To understand how sharks were coping with the temperature changes, postdoctoral shark physiologist (Mark) Royer and his colleagues developed a device consisting of instruments that measured depth, water temperature, location and movement, as well as a probe embedded into muscles near the dorsal fin that recorded the shark’s core temperature. The device was designed to break off after several weeks, float to the surface and send out a signal to enable its recovery."

The essay includes  a discussion of the issue of heat loss, examples of solutions used by tuna and whales and other fishes - tuna, marlin and two shark species, and keeping warm. This is the first report of the use of this particular mechanism but one that researchers would not be surprised to find in other fishes although the mechanism is yet to be settled (not the use of the modifier "apparently" above). 

The original report is in the journal Science to which there is a link and where the full article may be read. I include this link again for insurance. It Includes an editor's summary, a very useful, diagrammatic figure of deep diving behavior. i.e., what happens during the dives, including times, and a detailed description of the descent, time at the bottom of the dive, and the ascent. You will notice the reference to the use and power of models, mathematical models, which indicated the "suspension of convective heat transfer."

The study has led to two hypotheses regarding the mechanism: shunting blood away from the gills OR active gill closing. These are considered in the discussion section of the paper where it is pointed out that there are distinct differences between high performance fishes (fast swimmers) and scalloped hammerhead sharks.
This is another example of what technology has made possible for scientists to investigate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Forgotten History of Dandelions

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Global Change, Nature, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

Lion's tooth, cankerwort, Irish daisy, monk's head, priest's crown, puffball, blowball, earth's nail and milk-, witch-, or yellow gowan are a few of the ordinary names given to the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). 

I grew up calling them "lion's tooth" but somewhere along the way, blowball"  replaced it, at least until I turn my attention to their new greens, fresh and/or cooked. 

Here is some information about one of spring's yellow glories - from the World Of Weeds, Weed Science Society of America (WSSA).

The History Guy takes on the challenge of telling us about dandelions and history (11 m 38 s).

Monday, May 22, 2023

Urban Coyotes and Foxes: UMN Project

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Nature, Biodiversity, Science & Society

Ed Hessler
-- Coyotes have the gift of seldom being seen; they keep to the edge of vision and beyond, loping in and out of cover on the plains and highlands. -- N. Scott Momaday 
-- Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection. -- Wendell Berry

Since 2019, the Twin Cities Coyote & Fox Project (TCCFP) has been researching coyotes and foxes in the Twin Cities. The goal is to map habitat use, assess diets, and measure disease prevalence for foxes and coyotes in the Twin Cities Metro Area. 

Studying foxes and coyotes helps us to understand how they use urban settings, provides information to managers, and demystify them for area residents by telling a truer story about how they spend their time.
The web page is worth a visit and includes how to become a community scientist, engage with the data, the TCCFP in the news, information about the team, a question/comment link, a FAQ sheet, a Twitter link, the GPS movements of eleven coyotes which were radio-collared in 2020.

As we make our daily rounds so are coyotes and foxes and we don't often bump into them although if you are walking a dog you may be followed by a coyote who wants you outside it's border. I witnessed this once and the coyote passed within a meter of me. And I've had one "magical sighting," at night while walking home in a light but enveloping snow. The coyote suddenly appeared as though from nothing. Another lovely experience and I'm delighted I was there as it went right by me.

The project website is worth a lingering meandering exploration. Here is the link.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Brain and Grammar

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, Literacy. Brain

Ed Hessler

Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker discusses how to use grammar properly in this 10m 17s video

Pinker describes how the "algorithms and neural structures of the brain shape the rules of language--the mechanics of mental grammar."

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Benefits of Hanging Onto a Bit of Childhood Wonder

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

The premise of this short BBC IDEAS video (2m 07s) is to "imagine a world where scientists were the people kids dreamed of becoming."

Astrophysicist Karen Masters explores this vision. I loved her emphasis on the link  between curiosity and science.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art & Environment , Biodiversity, Nature

Ed Hessler

Planting Aspen Saplings is by Jim Carruth.

The poem's site includes publication information about the poet as well as a video Carruth reading it on National Poetry Day, October 6 2022.

You will note that he is currently Glasgow's Makar, i.e., the poet laureate of Glasgow.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

A Prehistoric Pendant Tells All

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Archeology, Culture, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

In a short article in Nature News (May 4 2023) by Elissa Welles writes about the composition of a pre-historic pendant that might have been worn as a necklace and the sex of the person who might have made/worn it.  She describes some of the details.

Pendant Composition. "Mitochondrial DNA — which is handed down from mother to offspring — extracted from the pendant show that the object is roughly 19,000 to 25,000 years old and that the tooth belonged to a wapiti, also known as an elk (Cervus canadensis)."

The Person. "Analysis of nuclear DNA from the ornament suggests that it had been made or worn by a female Homo sapiens whose genetic make-up resembles that of north Eurasian individuals who lived around the same time but were previously known only from remains found farther east in Siberia."

Study co-author Elena Essel adds a nice human touch finding it "comforting that humans living so long ago took the time and effort to make jewellery to adorn themselves. 'It’s so special for humankind that despite all odds, you have the hardest life on Earth, but you still try to seek the beauty in life.'" 
Here is the original paper with a photograph of the pendant which shows" the workflow of the gradual, non-destructive DNA extraction method (and) "before and after...DNA extraction." The abstract is the briefest of summaries of the investigation and findings. The paper includes a technical discussion of studying freshly excavated artifacts which focuses on DNA contamination in analysis of data extracted from them.

You can view another photograph of the pendant and a short discussion from Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America.

DNA analysis has added a powerful tool to so many disciplines: evolutionary biology and archeology are two.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Bystander Apathy

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Brain, Science & Society, Behavior, Nature of Science

"The Life of the Mind" video (8 m 17 s) with cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker "delves into the mind of a bystander and explains the social-psychological theory of  'bystander apathy'."

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Quantum Technology: A Bubble?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Miscellaneous, History of Science

Ed Hessler 

You are likely to agree with Sabine Hossenfelder's observation that "quantum technology (currently) attracts a lot of attention and money" both from government and business. This is her description of this presentation. "It’s also created a lot of hype, especially around quantum computing. But if so much of quantum computing is hype then why are companies like Google and IBM pouring so much money into it, what’ll happen when the investment bubble bursts, what’s the “quantum winter”, and what does it mean for all of us? That’s what we’ll talk about today." 

Hossenfelder refers to bra and ket notation, noting that most CEOs can't tell the difference. She is referring to bra--ket notation used to "denote quantum states." Wiki provides this comment on the lead section, namely that it "may be too technical for most readers to understand." Include me in that crowd.

Here is the blog post, video (20 m) and transcript but it is also on Hossenfelder's YouTube video which doesn't include the transcript  The discussion is on the hype she perceives and this example, quantum computing.



Monday, May 15, 2023

A Physician Mother Considers Mothers Day

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

Just before Mother's Day 2023,  psychiatrist and STAT writer Dr.  Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu wrote a reflection on "reclaiming time."  The idea began to take shape when her mother asked whether she remembered  "movie nights." Her mother told her that "they were my parents' way of reclaiming the time they were unable to spend with us as physician-parents and recent immigrants trying to build a new life for our family."

On the occasion of her 4th Mother's Day, Dr. Okwerekwu muses "on how I can reclaim time to spend with my own children but also for myself. A stranger's words have stuck with her as she tries to "'resuscitate time'. Just like CPR, attempts to resuscitate time are physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting."

She reports research on the free time of those identified as "the happiest people," two facts of her life which impinge on her free time -- "expected unpaid physician labor and the invisible mental loads of  motherhood." The "harried state of being" that results is known to sociologists as "'time poverty.'"

Okwerekwu recently re-read Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself and Raising Happy Kids, by Daisy Dowling. From this she has learned "how to optimize my work-life balance as a physician-mother." And she provides some examples.

Okwerekwu closes with these observations. "Mother's Day provides us with an opportunity to express gratitude toward the maternal figures in our lives. The holiday encourages us to honor the sacrifices mothers make to care for their families. I hope physician-mothers, especially those most at risk for time poverty, will take small steps to invest in ourselves....Lets do less, and gain much more. 

This is a good hope, for consideration, for all mothers. And also for the rest of us.


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Me and My Rhino*

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Science, Earth Systems, Geology, Paleontology. Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Based on a remark made by one of her advisors while they were visiting a field site where Laura Emmet was doing a dig, she decided not to pursue a Ph.D. but instead chose to become a lab and field technician

This is the remark.  “Oh, I wish I could dig, I’ve got to go back inside to write a grant.”

Emmet was recently chosen to be featured in the journal Nature's "Where I Work" series. Emmet who works at the Gray Fossil Site and Museum in Gray, Tennessee is shown working, knees on the ground, on the removal of a fossil rhinoceros.

Her attitude is going to serve her well. Writer Jack Leeming caught it in the first paragraph of the short report. "It’s going to take me three years to unearth this rhinoceros fossil, but that’s okay — he’s been waiting five million years for me to come along. "

The report discusses the rhino, a new species and his hard life but he lived to be about 20 years old, old for rhinos. It also includes how the site was found, what it once was, and the richness of its fossils.

You can read the Nature article as well as to learn more how Emmet considers her current work. The link to the Gray Fossil Museum has more information about the site and its work.
* Title from Leeming's article for Nature.


Saturday, May 13, 2023

Titan's Seas

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth & Space Sciences, Solar System, Astronomy, Cosmology

Ed Hessler 

Saturn's moon Titan is one of surprises and scientific mysteries. It has lakes (methane/natural gas) and a very active weather system, including rain (natural gas/methane).

This spectacular image of Titan Seas at APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) notes that the feature was "annoying and also useful to scientists." It made me pause, think the ingenuity of scientists, technologists, engineers, and computer scientists making it possible to look through clouds to "see" what is going on at the surface.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Managing Wildlife: Counting

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Sustainability, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

--“The hope of the future lies not in curbing the influence of human occupancy – it is already too late for that – but in creating a better understanding of the extent of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.” --Aldo Leopold, Game Management, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933; reissued in 1986, University of Wisconsin Press.

Way back, Dennis Anderson wrote about duck counts  (Outdoors, StarTribune, September 4). He began by noting that Aldo Leopold had once remarked on the difficulty of managing ducks and goes on to discuss that. I liked the essay because it is about a problem many scientists face: measurement.

Many of us know Leopold as the author of A Sand County Almanac , which is regarded as a landmark in the American conservation movement (See Wiki). It is not as well known that he was the author of the first book on game management and also chaired a new position in game management at the University of Wisconsin which was both a first for the University and the nation. Leopold is regarded as the proverbial father of the discipline of wildlife management. 

Both events, book publication and Leopold's appointment as chair occurred the same year: 1933. Game Management was reissued in 1986 (University of Wisconsin Press, originally published by Charles Scribner's Sons). Here is a review of the book from the scientific journal, The Auk (PDF 1988).

One way of thinking about ecology is as the distribution and abundance of the earth's plants and animals. In his essay, Mr. Anderson draws attention to the measuring the abundance of waterfowl. He begins by stating the management challenge but first comments on the distribution of ducks from the Arctic to South America, i.e., they are a shared resource among nations and states. This means that opinions about how best to manage them varies widely and waterfowl management becomes a diverse socio-cultural-political problemtoo.

Anderson cited the well known controversy between waterfowl managers from Louisiana and Minnesota, with southern managers complaining that Minnesota hunters "were killing too many ducks."  Minnesota waterfowl managers responded by complaining "that their southern counterparts abided too much illegal hunting, and as a result the number of ducks thought to be poached in the southern Mississippi Flyway rivaled the number killed legally."

In recent years, the issue has become "distrust" of population estimates with hunters complaining that there are fewer hunters because duck numbers are on decline "even though, as recently as 2015, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reported North American ducks were at 'record high' population numbers." In that mix are two contentious issues, namely duck seasons and bag limits.The USFWS "regulations governing season lengths and bag limits" have been practiced for so long that they should be considered set in stone. Minnesota has 60-day seasons and six-duck daily limits.

There is another layer of controversy in Minnesota which in 2021 established "an early five-day 'experimental' teal season. These are the numbers from the first year: 50.000 blue-winged teal killed during the experimental season and "another 93,000 of the same species felled during the regular duck season." In 2020, the total bluewings killed was 93,000. Waterfowl researchers have justified both seasons: experimental and the federal hunting regulations." The claim which they believe is supported by evidence is "there's no harm in either."

Duck management is predicated on spring breeding counts and it is based "on the long-held assumption by duck surveyors flying over spring breeding grounds that the sighting of up to five drake mallards on a pond without a visible accompanying hen by definition meant that, nearby but unseen, was a hen mallard on her nest -- which surveyors counted as if they had season."

Anderson notes that this assumption is being challenged, buttressed by "estimates by an oldere but nevertheless respected way of counting ducks that uses banding and harvest data that seem to confirm that fewer -- perhaps far fewer -- hen mallards are on the breeding grounds."  This method "suggests mallards have been declining since 1999."

Until this question of abundance is resolved , Anderson makes these suggestions on what hunter should do which include make their best effort to "shoot drakes only, support Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and similar groups."

You may wonder about the attention paid to mallard counts. They are, as Anderson points out, "critical to duck management."

The article "Duck Counts: Fact or Fiction" includes much more information.. The MN Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) has published information on waterfowl management in Minnesota.

Finally, The idea of counting sounds simple: 1, 2, 3.... It isn't and includes many factors making it a complex problem to resolve and even then you can bet controversy about what the numbers mean will not go away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Ludwig Beethoven: Hints About His Cause of Death with Comments about His Hearing Loss

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Science & Society, History of Science, Narure of Science

Ed Hessler 

Long before he died, composer Ludwig van Beethoven made a request of his brothers. In the reporting by Dyani Lewis, Nature News he wanted them "to seek out his physician and to 'beg him in my name to describe my malady (hearing loss and deafness)."

Lewis goes on to describe recently published research. The current technology of genomics research -- "methods for sequencing DNA from centuries-old, degraded samples" (locks of hair) - has allowed researchers to look for "known disease-causing genetic sequences." 
No genetic sequences typically associated with hearing sequences were found but what was found "suggests that Beethoven probably died from liver disease brought on by a combination of viral hepatitis, alcohol consumption and genetic factors."

The evidence from the DNA extraction "showed that Beethoven had two copies of a particular variant (of a gene) that has been linked to liver cirrhosis." He also had single copies of two variants (of a gene" that cause "hereditary hemochromatosis, a condition that damages the liver." Furthermore, it is known from historical records that Beethoven was a "heavy drinker" with consumption increasing as he grew older. 

Lewis's reporting explores more deeply death from liver disease and genetic issues, e.g.,  searching for genetic sequences for other diseases associated with deafness and speculation about a well-known medical condition for which no genetic sequence has yet been found.

Walther Parson, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria closes the reporting. He told Lewis that "now that Beethoven's genetic information is publicly available, it will probably spur amateur sleuths to investigate further and explore how they might be related to the renowned composer. 'Like all good stories, it leaves us with as many questions as answers.'"

Dyani Lewis' reporting may be found here as well as a link to the scientific paper on which it is based which is open-access which include information about the authors. The research was published in Current Biology which has a feature I appreciate: research highlights, research summary, and a graphical abstract. There is a photo of one of the lock samples for which you must scroll down. This is a substantial paper, e.g., the PDF option is 40 pp long. Take a scroll.

I always look at the title chosen for reporting the research and the title of the scientific paper.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Premature Infant Mini-Skateboard

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Brain, Health, Medicine, Young Children

Ed Hessler

Here is a very short YouTube video (0.41 s)  showing a very preterm infant using a lie-in skateboard to practice moving shortly after birth. The article (April 23, 2023) explaining reasons for the use of the device is behind a paywall (New Scientist).

However, this short essay by Adrianna Nine (Extreme Tech, April 26, 2023) has several still photographic images in which you can see some of the details you can't see or are difficult to see in the video. Here are the first two paragraphs of her reporting. 

"When a baby is born very premature—before 32 weeks of gestation—they have a one-in-three chance of experiencing some sort of motor impairment. In some cases, the baby might begin to crawl later than their full-term counterparts; in others, they might experience fine motor “defects” that make it difficult to catch a ball or maintain balance as toddlers. A key way to prevent these challenges is to help the baby build their motor skills shortly after birth, but given babies are brand-new humans, this is easier said than done. 

"Scientists in France have developed a tool to help. Marianne Barbu-Roth, who studies the impact of movement on human neurology (the "BabyLab" )at Paris Cité University, has worked with her colleagues to develop a skateboard-like device that helps premature infants practice moving. Based on early trials, the device—called Crawliskate—appears to facilitate motor skill development, leading premature babies to meet major movement milestones within full-term time frames."

Nine discusses the use and testing of Crawliskate, closing with comments on the team's next trials.

In a long preprint (52 p. PDF) on MedRXiv posted March 29, 2023, the BabyLab team lists the additions the paper adds to previous findings.

  • Very premature infants can propel themselves on a mini-skateboard using crawling movements at term equivalent age

  • Eight weeks of daily, at-home early crawling training immediately following discharge from the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) facilitates the acquisition of mature crawling in premature infants

  • Eight weeks of early crawling training positively influences motor development in premature infants

  • Eight weeks of early crawling training positively influences general development in premature infants

  • Early daily at-home crawling is a promising intervention for premature infants at heightened risk for motor delays and disabilities, potentially feasible for parents to conduct