All posts by mariahquintanilla2017

Sawdust carpets cushion Nicaragua’s streets on Good Friday

By Mariah Quintanilla

Boaco, Nicaragua – Nicaraguans marched across colorful sawdust carpets alongside their savior in the final carrying of the crosses Friday during the Catholic Holy Week.

The bright, fluffy carpets lined the lower main street of Boaco, a municipality in central Nicaragua with the slogan, “The city of two floors.” The “bleeding” crosses, orange suns, hearts, flowers and birds each represented the stations of the Viacrucis procession, signifying Jesus’ final walk toward crucifixion.

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Bio machines hold promise for efficient organs and implants

By Mariah Quintanilla

Exceptionally talented athletes and hard working people are often described as “machines” because of their seemingly super-human abilities. To many scientists who study biological processes, however, the “human machine” metaphor is not a metaphor at all, but a scientific truth.

The emerging field of biological engineering research utilizes our own cells as potential building blocks for machine-like capabilities, said researchers from the University of Illinois and the Georgia Institute of Technology. These future biological machines may be “hyper organs” that are more efficient than our own organs, or insulin-releasing implants made entirely of cells, they said at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) conference in Boston.
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Solving world hunger for 830 million via satellite data

By Mariah Quintanilla

What do data and satellite imaging have to do with solving world hunger? Everything, it seems. New surveying techniques and open source imaging of diminishing, available and potential cropland are the first steps in assessing problems and solutions for global food security.

To prevent further hunger, researchers must identify factors that may lead to food instability, such as areas prone to frequent drought, floods, erosion or sea level rise. Researchers stressed the need for accurate data and efficient satellite imaging of small family farms and large agricultural systems in a seminar on monitoring food security at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Boston.

The World Food Programme of the United Nations estimates that about one in nine people – about 830 million of us – go to bed hungry every night. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that approximately 870 million people around the world do not have access to nutritious food. With advanced technology and modern open source databases, it’s hard to understand how even more data and better satellite imaging will help the problem of hunger.
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Stop blaming the polls

By Mariah Quintanilla

Stop blaming the pre-election polls. They told you all they could about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The pre-election polls based on national surveys accurately predicted what they were designed to predict: Clinton’s popular election win. So why did so few consider the fact that the electoral college had a real chance of turning the numbers upside down? And why did major news media promote blind trust in the polls, making many people believe a Clinton win was in the bag?
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Parasites, pathogens and politics

By Mariah Quintanilla

Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States, and a popular question these past two weeks has been, “How did we get here?” While the media have done some collective soul-searching in an attempt to answer this question, one possibility that we’ve all failed to recognize is biology.

Psychologists and biologists have discovered that conservative or liberal ideologies can be more or less predicted in people by their responses to—wait for it—infectious disease and parasites.
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Smart phones may be dumbing down tolerance in a polarized election

By Mariah Quintanilla

With a polarized electorate decided the fate of the nation today, could smart phones have widened the divide?

Voters and pundits alike are pondering the lack of trust between Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. One recent study published in PLoS ONE reported a connection between cell phone use and lack of trust. The “more people relied on their mobile phones for information, the less they trusted strangers, neighbors and people from other religions and nationalities,” the study concluded.
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LGBTQ voters in Lakeview parade to the polls

By Teresa Manring and Mariah Quintanilla

Cars honked and pedestrians cheered and stared as local LGBTQ activists paraded from Replay Beer & Bourbon in Boystown to a local polling place for early voting Saturday.

“Out of the bars and into the streets!” leaders yelled through megaphones. They invited passers-by and lingering Cubs tourists to join the group of about 50 people marching to Chicago Public Library’s Merlo branch on West Belmont Avenue to cast their ballots.


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Some physicians call Daylight Saving Time a health burden

By Mariah Quintanilla

Twice a year, Americans enter a government-instituted time warp. Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends this Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2 a.m., and we will collectively rejoice in an extra hour of precious, precious sleep as clocks “fall back.” Come March, however, that hour is “lost” once again and many of us may suffer negative health consequences from the abrupt shift in our sleep cycles.

DST was first adopted by Germany in 1916 and later by many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere  to maximize daylight and conserve energy. Though the costs and benefits of DST are still hotly debated, many U.S. doctors and researchers agree that disrupting our sleep cycles during DST can throw people into a short-term spiral of adverse health effects.
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Transparent wood: A better window than door

By Mariah Quintanilla

People have long used wood to build shelter, make furniture or stoke a campfire. The one thing we’ve never been able to do is see through it—until now. In two separate studies published this year, researchers from the University of Maryland and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden devised a method to make wood transparent. They utilized similar techniques to chemically strip the wood of the compounds that give wood its color. The hope is to someday use the lightweight transparent wood as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional glass windows.

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Green chemistry: preventive healthcare for the environment

By Mariah Quintanilla

We all know that bagel coated with sesame, poppy, onion, garlic, caraway and salt. Chemical engineer Nick Thornburg considers an ‘everything’ bagel a reasonable metaphor for an inefficient catalyst, or a compound that speeds up a chemical reaction. For those of us non-chemists, a longer explanation is required.

The point of his metaphor is this: understanding the structure of catalysts with less-selective chemistry (the ‘everything’ bagels of catalysts) is key when developing more efficient chemical processes  for ‘greener’ industries. Continue reading