Science Reporting

Rare solar superblasts could upset the world according to a new study

In a new study presented at the 234th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, a research group from the University of Colorado Boulder took into consideration the so-called “superflare,” i.e. particularly large and violent star flares that can prove to be a problem for any nearby planets. Fortunately, the Sun, from this point of view, is quite stable and the problem relating to solar superblasts has never really been taken into account by experts in relation to a possible “end of the world.”

At least until now. The new study focuses precisely on this possibility: these huge bursts of energy, so powerful that they can be seen (as far as the other stars are concerned) even from hundreds of light-years away, can actually occur even in older and “quieter” stars like our sun. Although such events may occur on this type of star more rarely, experts say that the danger is real and much more concrete than you think. The results of this research should be a wake-up call for life on our planet, as reported by Yuta Notsu, the lead author of the study.

If the Earth were to be on the trajectory of a radiation wave of a solar superflare, very serious events could happen: depending on the intensity of the blast and the position of the Earth at that time, ranging from the upheaval of electronics around the world, a situation that alone could lead us to a unique global crisis to much more serious events, probably unimaginable.

Notsu and his team used the data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia space probe and those from the Apache Point observatory in New Mexico. The data concerned superflare from 43 stars quite similar to our sun. Submitting this data to a rigorous statistical analysis, the researchers realized that “age matters”: younger stars tend to produce more superflare but older stars, like our sun, are not completely exempt from this behavior.

If for young stars we talk about superflare once a week on average, for stars like the Sun we talk about one superflare every thousand years. This means that most likely in the near future a superflare could hit the Earth. A classic superflare of average power that occurred 1000 years ago would not have been such a big problem but since today’s civilization relies on electronics and electricity just to survive, a superflare today or in the future would be a good problem.

In any case, according to the results of this study, it is the classic situation in which it is not a question of whether, but of when.

Science Reporting

Millennials more at risk of suicide or overdose than previous generations

According to a report by the Stanford Centre on Poverty and Inequality, millennials are more at risk of dying from suicide or overdose than previous generations. The report, prepared by various US experts on poverty and social inequality, examined various factors including education, health, employment and income as well as race and gender.

According to David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Centre on Poverty and Inequality, “millennials are the first generation to fully experience the social and economic problems of our time.” This is because young people born in the 2000s are those who try to enter the labour market during or immediately after the Great Recession that began at the end of the 2000s

They are also those who have to face, compared to the children of previous generations, ten-year economic issues, first of all the decline of economic mobility, which only today are having their real effects. According to the researchers, this is a particularly difficult period for the younger generations compared with previous generations.

Furthermore, according to the report, mortality rates among young adults (25-34 years old) have increased significantly, by more than 20% according to data analyzed by researchers. Deaths are mainly due to an increase in suicides and drug overdoses.

The report also found that millennia have a wider range of social identities to refer to but this does not mean that they are more likely to accept people other than themselves than previous generations.

With regard to the issue of racism and social prejudice, in fact, the report shows that things have not changed so much since the 1950s or 1960s, at least as far as the United States is concerned.

Science Reporting

Air polluted by fuel combustion alters blood vessels in the lungs

Breathing in the small carbon particles produced by combustion, particularly that of fossil fuel fuels, can lead to a significant increase in peripheral blood vessels. This is shown by research published in the European Respiratory Journal, which points out, if there is still a need, how serious can be the air pollution produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.

The study, according to the researchers, clearly shows that exposure to pollutants such as that caused by the combustion of diesel can, even at doses considered as low, lead to subtle changes in the lungs which can then lead to chronic lung disease.

According to the researchers, people exposed to higher levels of black carbon, a component of particulate matter formed by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, saw effects comparable to those associated with smoking a packet of cigarettes a day for 15 years.

To arrive at the results, researchers analyzed data from 3000 people in six different U.S. metropolitan areas. In particular, they also used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitoring database, as well as traffic data, weather models and land use data.

By analyzing the participants’ pulmonary blood vessels, taking into account various other personal factors, the researchers estimated that they had been exposed to annual levels of black carbon at 0.8 micrograms per cubic meter and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at 11 micrograms per cubic meter.

These limits are lower than those set by the institutions in the United States and the European Union but despite this analysis showed that they are associated with a greater volume of blood vessels in the lungs.