January 11th, 2016

Solar Physics

sun2 Join us on Tuesday, January 19 for this month’s NMTC Science Café on Solar Physics. Graduating Towson University Honor student, Kielan Wilcomb, who has served as an intern at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for two years, will explain what it means.

Solar physics, a branch of astrophysics, is the study of our Sun. This is important because the Earth would not have a livable habitat if it weren’t for the Sun. The food we eat exists because of sunlight falling on green plants, and the fuel we burn comes either from such plants, or was accumulated by them. We enjoy the warmth of the Sun that reaches us within 8 minutes. There are direct health benefits of limited sun exposure such as Vitamin D production, helping your circadian rhythm, lowering blood pressure, and improving your mood.

The importance of predicting space weather, solar flares and other solar phenomena is critical. Our climate is directly affected by solar winds. Disturbances in the solar wind can shake the Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts. Regions on the surface of the Sun often flare and give off ultraviolet light and x-rays that heat up the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Excess radiation can physically damage satellites and pose a threat to astronauts. Shaking the Earth’s magnetic field can also cause current surges in power lines that destroy equipment and knock out power over large areas.

Did you know that the Northern Lights are caused by great storms on the sun sending gusts of charged solar particles hurtling through space? If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react. When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.
Ms. Wilcomb, National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholar and Vice President of Towson’s Student Physics Society, will help us understand these phenomena. Please come and enjoy a relaxed evening of discussion with others interested in the physics of our Sun.

What questions do you have about the sun?

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May 11th, 2015

NMTC Science Café: People, Ticks, and Lyme Disease

Deer tickI was chatting with a patron recently about an investigative report on how little is spent on Lyme disease prevention and research.

This is an important topic to me as I have been treated for Lyme disease after finding the bull’s eye bite plus the flu-like symptoms and severe headache. When I started to search for facts about Lyme disease, I found some eye opening information.

Ron Hamlen, PhD., Vice-chair, Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern PA, Inc., sent me some information compiled by Dr. Daniel Cameron, a researcher and expert on tick-borne diseases.

Here a few quick facts about the seriousness of Lyme disease:


– Ticks have been around for 15,000,000 years and the first case was described 5300 years ago.

– CDC reports 300,000 new cases/year, that’s 822 cases/week

– It is the fastest growing disease over HIV, Breast Cancer, Hepatitis and Colon Cancer

– Research funding is only $21 million compared to Hepatitis ($200 million), Colon Cancer ($288 million), Breast Cancer ($674 million) and HIV (3005 Million)

– The Elisa test used is only 35-50% accurate, the disease is usually misdiagnosed because it exhibits symptoms similar to other diseases. Fewer than 50% people remember being bitten by a tick or even noticing a rash.

– 40% of Lyme patients end up with long-term health problems. If left untreated, 60% patients have arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling

– Some Lyme disease patients are as disabled as people with Congestive Heart Failure and have as much pain as post-operative patients

If you want to learn about Lyme disease, come to our NMTC Science Café: People, Ticks and Lyme Disease with Ron Hamlen, PhD, Lyme Disease Assoc. of Southeastern PA. We will have an informal discussion led by Dr. Hamlen, May 19, 7:00 pm at the Elkton Central Library.
If you can’t come to the program but are still interested in this topic, go to NIH, MDHM or CDC (as per links below)

Did you know dogs can contract Lyme disease, too?

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