Monday, April 13, 2020

Genes and Proteins of COVID-19

A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on 31 December 2019.  The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and declared a pandemic on March 11. By that time the disease was known as COVID-19 and the name of the new virus was SARS-CoV-2

Scientists worked at speed to make this virus's gene and protein information available at record time. 


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Flu Season 2019-2020

Influenza viruses are negative-sense single stranded RNA viruses of the Orthomyxoviridae family. There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D . In electron microscopy these types, especially A and B,  could be virtually indistinguishable. D is more similar to C.
Most of these viruses look like small spheres with spikes, although some could be irregularly shaped. Spikes are proteins and they are what's different in different forms of influenza. Typically, influenza A starts the early wave of the flu, and influenza B starts to show up at the tail-end of the season, in early spring. This year is't flu B that started the first wave while flu A may be responsible for the second wave. Is the flu shot working? It's still too early to predict.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Saving the Pond

Reproduced from Aurametrix

There are several million ponds in United States (Renwick et al, 2006), and many are in need for preservation. This pond (35°33'51.7"N 84°13'38.5"W), part of Kahite hiking trail system in East Tennessee, attracts a variety of wildlife, with ecological benefits and habitat. It preserves community open space and property values.

The pond began to deteriorate as invasive submerged plants such as Hydrilla (notoriously difficult to eradicate without serious chemical herbicides) started growing under the surface of the water causing problems for aquatic life. The pond used to be naturally cleaned by a stream connecting to Tellico lake, but the stream got clogged up and the pond is in need of help.

Dying Pond

Members of the community desire to save it because of its mystique, beauty and recreational value, and they need an economical and environmentally friendly way of restoring new life to our pond. This project would be a great example of civic engagement, helping to educate future Nature Conservancy volunteers. Here is the story of the pond.

Aerial view of the pond
It is not known when this small (surface area ~0.5 acres), tranquil pond was born in the scenic greenery of East Tennessee. The land area around the pond was owned by an Overhill Cherokee descendant, Bowhunter, sun of a local chieftain. For Cherokees, water was the source of all existence and the deposit of all living things. It marked both the beginning and the terminus of material life and persisted beyond the realm of the temporal into infinite existence. Going to water was a part of the ritual for obtaining long life and recovering from a thickness (Mooney, 2012). No doubt, Bowhunter would cherish and maintain his pond.
Beautifully maintained historic road

Shortly after the 1819 Calhoun treaty that established Monroe county, an early settler John McGhee purchased the land. Over the years the property was owned by Peter Moser, Shakely Farma, Bob Starnea, Jogn Caraon and other families. In 1920s, the first documented house within the boundaries of modern Kahite neighborhood was built by Bert Anderson. The settlement along Mt. Zion Road within the boundaries of Kahite began with a tenant house built by the Robinsons.  In the late 1940s, the land was acquired by the Williams family who built a house and a barn near the pond. They used the pond for agricultural purposes, as water sources for livestock.

In the 1960s the Tennessee Valley Authority began buying up the land  for the creation of Tellico Reservoir. And so water spread over the valley and the lake was born. But a part of Mt. Zion road used by the early settlers was still there and so was the pond.

The Pond after the rain
In the 1960s Monroe county lagged badly behind the rest of the state in most important economic measures. Development of Kahite, the final major neighborhood of Tellico Village, started in August 1996 with the goal to bring jobs and economic growth. But there was more to it, as members of the community volunteered to plant community gardens, build trails and were eager to turn the land into a welcoming haven for humans and wildlife.

Pond in need of restoration
The shoreline lands around Tellico lake are no longer stagnant communities, but a recreation wonderland maintained by environment and wildlife conservation enthusiasts. It's a land of educated volunteers willing to employ new sustainable green chemistry approaches and innovative methods of building and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Ponds provide enjoyment from offering a closeness to nature and increase the habitat available for our freshwater wildlife.

We do not inherit our ponds from previous generations, we borrow them from the future ones. We need to maintain them for their beauty, for their cultural significance, and protect next generations of human beings and other inhabitants of the Earth.


Renwick WH, Sleezer RO, Buddemeier RW, Smith SV. Small artificial ponds in the United States: impacts on sedimentation and carbon budget. In Proceedings of the Eighth Federal Interagency Sedimentation Conference 2006 Apr 2 (No. 8th, pp. 738-44).

Gary Mulliner, 2010, History of Kahite, Iterpretive Exhibit.

Mooney J. Myths of the Cherokee. Courier Corporation; 2012 Mar 7.

Stager JC, Wiltse B, Hubeny JB, Yankowsky E, Nardelli D, Primack R. Climate variability and cultural eutrophication at Walden Pond (Massachusetts, USA) during the last 1800 years. PloS one. 2018 Apr 4;13(4):e0191755.

Genoa R. Warner, Yogesh Somasundar, Kyle C. Jansen, Evan Z. Kaaret, Cindy Weng, Abigail E. Burton, Matthew R. Mills, Longzhu Q. Shen, Alexander D. Ryabov, Gabrielle Pros, Tomislav Pintauer, Saborni Biswas, Michael P. Hendrich, Julia A. Taylor, Frederick S. Vom Saal, Terrence J. Collins. Bioinspired, Multidisciplinary, Iterative Catalyst Design Creates the Highest Performance Peroxidase Mimics and the Field of Sustainable Ultradilute Oxidation Catalysis (SUDOC). ACS Catalysis, 2019; 7023 DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.9b01409

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bringing Health and Happiness

Cute animals are the perfect distraction from our hectic lives.

But in cities having an animal isn't always possible. Solutions to this problem are cat, rabbit and goat cafes  or petting zoos in shopping malls. Residents of Sunnyvale can now enjoy cute animals in a more traditional setting - in recycled-water gardens of Baylands park. Say hello to llamas, horses, chickens, goats, rabbits, pigeons, furry rodents, pigs and sheep.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Will elections be bad for your health?

Elections may be bad for your health. Stress is higher than you think (especially for the oldest and the youngest voters) and social media will make it worse.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Healthy Halloween

Halloween is not the healthiest day of the year as it increases hospital statistics, including sugar-high accidents for kids and alcohol-/drug- related injuries for adults. But there are many other things we can learn from this celebration.

According to numerous scientific studies and less scientific surveys...

 Read more

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday the 13th

reproduced from Aurametrix
Our health depends on a multitude of environmental factors, day in and day out.  And tomorrow is a special day - Friday the 13th.

How should you feel on this day?
Friday the 13th is one of the most feared dates, associated with bad luck in the West. And it is taken cautiously even in cultures that do not fear the 13th - for example, among Chinese mothers avoiding delivering their babies on the 13th.  But science says that those born on the 13th and even those born on Friday the 13th are not in any way less lucky than those born on any other day.

​Yet there were older studies indicating that Friday the 13th might be a bad day to drive (at least, for females), to invest in stocks and to be admitted in hospital. Is it really?  

The truth is less people are driving on Friday the 13th (less people are flying too - thus air tickets on this day are always cheaper). And even though according to some data Friday is the most dangerous day to commute to work by car, there is nothing special about traffic accidents on Friday the 13th.

Scientific analysis does not support the belief Friday 13th influence medical emergencies, surgical blood loss and intestinal perforations. Although being hospitalized on Fridays, in general, might be slightly less lucky.

Stocks tend to perform better on Fridays - a phenomenon known as the “weekend effect.”  But many traders refuse to place new trades on Friday 13th. Yet, statistical analysis of trading data over 2 January 1991 to 30 December 2011 suggest that unlucky days (particularly Friday the 13th) generally exhibit higher stock returns. Analysis of FTSE world indices over 1988-2000, for 19 countries - also found that returns on Friday the 13th are statistically different from, and generally greater than, returns on other Friday returns.

The stress of work seems to carry right through until Friday night. But Fridays always generate better moods that peak on Saturdays. So Friday the 13th could be a really good day. And Saturday the 14th might be even better. 
Fidrmuc, J., & Tena, J. (2015). Friday the 13th: The Empirics of Bad Luck Kyklos, 68 (3), 317-334 DOI: 10.1111/kykl.12085

Lucey, B. (2002). Friday the 13th and the Philosophical Basis of Financial Economics SSRN Electronic Journal DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.962697

Chung, R., Darrat, A., & Li, B. (2014). Superstitions and stock trading: some new evidence Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, 19 (4), 527-538 DOI: 10.1080/13547860.2014.920589

Stone, A., Schneider, S., & Harter, J. (2012). Day-of-week mood patterns in the United States: On the existence of ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Thank God it's Friday’ and weekend effects The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7 (4), 306-314 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2012.691980

Smyth JM, Wonderlich SA, Sliwinski MJ, Crosby RD, Engel SG, Mitchell JE, & Calogero RM (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of affect, stress, and binge-purge behaviors: day of week and time of day effects in the natural environment. The International journal of eating disorders, 42 (5), 429-36 PMID: 19115371

Schuld J, Slotta JE, Schuld S, Kollmar O, Schilling MK, & Richter S (2011). Popular belief meets surgical reality: impact of lunar phases, Friday the 13th and zodiac signs on emergency operations and intraoperative blood loss. World journal of surgery, 35 (9), 1945-9 PMID: 21713579

Almond D, Chee CP, Sviatschi MM, & Zhong N (2015). Auspicious birth dates among Chinese in California. Economics and human biology, 18, 153-9 PMID: 26160600