Caterpillars digests plastic

Scientist discover wax worms who can digest the common plastic compound polyethylene, and produce the byproduct ethylene glycol. Interestingly, compared to bacteria the wax worm is faster at digesting plastic. Since wax also contains a chemical bond found in polyethylene some speculate the worms might have evolved a molecular mechanism to break the chemical bonds. There are still major hurtles in understanding the wax worm’s digestive system, but just think of the future possibilities surrounding bio-degradation.

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-By Julia Watson :

The City Health Dashboard



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According to NYU prior to the City Health Dashboard health data was only available at the county level. However, their innovative Dashboard allows users to access health information by city, neighborhood or demographic group creating a more precise image of the health information. The Dashboard allows users to explore 26 health metrics across five main domains: Social and Economic Factors, Health Outcomes, Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, and Physical Environment.

Here is the link to check it out!:

-By Julia Watson:

Map of Days Over the National Ambient Air Quality Stated for Ozone (2011)


The map of today shows ozone days over the National Ambient Air Quality in the United States in 2011. From the map we can see the most polluted clustered areas are: California and Arizona; Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, east Texas and south Louisiana; Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois; The northeastern coastal states.

Why do you think ozone pollution is particularly bad in these areas?

For more information and other Map of the Days, please check out:

Zika Virus Affects Fertility of Male Mice

baby albino rat held in hand with a glove by researcher

Recent studies by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have revealed some damage Zika virus could do to male mice. After infected with Zika, male mice start to lose their fertility function – lost of sperm and shrinking of testes up to 90%. The harm affects mice really fast, and are possibly irreversible even after the virus is cleared from the bloodstream.

Zika virus can stay in men’s sexual organs for up to 6 months. Data on how Zika virus affects human beings is lacking to make conclusions on how it could affect fertility in men. However, there are chances that the virus could destroy men’s sperm in a similar way that it does to mice. Men usually do not find out they are infertile until they try to have children. Therefore, it might take longer to have more cases to study how the virus influences men’s fertility function. More studies are underway.

To read more about this research, please visit


A New Approach To Fighting Zika – Releasing Infected Mosquitoes


A group of international donors recently funded a new project that aims to fight Zika virus with $18 million. The project attempts to provide a “revolutionary approach” against mosquito-borne diseases, by infecting mosquitoes with a bug called Wolbachia which reduces their ability to spread viruses to people.

Wolbachia is a natural bacterium that infects most insects and does not harm human beings. Traditionally, it does not infect the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the host of Zika and other viruses, but scientists have found ways to inject the bug into these mosquitoes. The approach is likely to work in two days, by boosting the immune system of host mosquitoes so that they don’t carry viruses, and also by competing against viruses in resources within the host.

The program will unfold in early 2017. Preliminary studies have shown efficacy of the approach. Communities have expressed concerns about unintended consequences. Researchers point out that humans have been in contact with the bacteria and have not been harmed, and promise to monitor closely with the process.

To read more about this project, please visit


Map of Percentage of Persons Who Speak English “Less Than Well” (2010-2014)


Today’s map of the day shows the percentages of population in the United States who speak English “less than well”. The map shows a clear regional difference across the country, with states which accommodates a big immigrant population showing a higher percentage of lack of English fluency (Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, New York).

For more information and other Map of the Days, please check out: