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I find some aspects of language much more difficult than others. Abstract words are much harder for me to understand, and I have a picture in my head for each that helps me make sense of the meaning. For example, the word complexity makes me think of a braid or plait of hair — the many different strands woven together into a complete whole. When I read or hear that something is complex, I imagine it as having lots of different parts that need tying together to arrive at an answer.

Similarly, the word triumph creates a picture in my mind of a large golden trophy, such as the ones won in big sporting events. If I hear about a politician’s “election triumph,” I imagine the politician holding a trophy over his head, like the winning team manager at an FA cup final. For the word fragile, I think of glass; I picture a “fragile peace” as a glass dove. The image I see helps me understand that the peace might be shattered at any moment.

Certain sentence structures can be particularly hard for me to analyze, such as, “He is not inexperienced in such things,” where the two negatives (not and in-) cancel each other out. It is much better if people just say, “He is experienced in such things.”

Another example is when a sentence begins, “Don’t you . . .?” as in, “Don’t you think we should go now?” or “Don’t you want ice cream?” Then I become very confused, and my head starts to hurt, because the questioner is not being clear about whether he means “Do you want an ice cream?” or “Is it correct that you don’t want an ice cream?” and it’s possible to answer both questions with a “Yes,” and I don’t like it when the same word can mean two completely different things.

As a child, I found idiomatic language particularly confusing. Describing someone as being “under the weather” was very strange to me because, I thought, “Isn’t everyone under the weather?” Another common saying that puzzled me was when my parents might excuse the grumpy behavior of one of my brothers by saying, “He must have got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.” “Why didn’t he get out of the right side of the bed?” I asked.

In recent years, scientists have become more and more interested in studying the kind of synesthetic experiences in language that I have, in order to find out more about the phenomenon and its origins. Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran, of California’s Center for Brain Studies, in San Diego, has researched synesthesia for more than a decade and believes there may be a link between the neurological basis for synesthetic experiences and the linguistic creativity of poets and writers. According to one study, the condition is seven times as common in creative people as in the general population.

In particular, Ramachandran points to the facility with which creative writers think up and use metaphors — a form of language where a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated things — and compares this to the linking of seemingly unrelated entities such as colors and words, or shapes and numbers, in synesthesia.

Some scientists believe that high-level concepts (including numbers and language) are anchored in specific regions of the brain and that synesthesia might be caused by excess communication between these different regions. Such crossed wiring could lead to both synesthesia and to a propensity toward the making of links between seemingly unrelated ideas.

William Shakespeare, for example, was a frequent user of metaphors, many of which are synesthetic, involving a link to the senses. For example, in Hamlet, Shakespeare has the character Francisco say that it is “bitter cold” — combining the sensation of coldness with the taste of bitterness. In another play, The Tempest, Shakespeare goes beyond metaphors involving only the senses and links concrete experiences with more abstract ideas. His expression “This music crept by me upon the waters” connects the abstract term music with a creeping action. The reader is able to imagine music — something normally very difficult to create a mental picture of — as a moving animal.

But it isn’t just very creative people who make these connections. Everyone does; we all rely on synesthesia to a greater or lesser degree. In their book Metaphors We Live By, language scientist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are not arbitrary constructions but follow particular patterns, which in turn structure thought. They give as examples expressions that indicate the links: happy = up and sad = down: “I’m feeling up”; “My spirits rose.” “I’m feeling down”; “He’s really low.” Or more = up, and less = down: “My income rose last year.” “The number of errors is very low.”

Lakoff and Johnson suggest that many of these patterns emerge from our everyday physical experiences; for example, the link sad = down may be related to the way that posture droops when a person is feeling sad. Similarly, the link more = up may come from the fact that when you add an object or substance to a container or pile, the level goes up.

Other language scientists have noted that some of the structural features of many words not normally associated with any function, such as initial phoneme groups, have a noticeable effect on the reader/listener. For example, for sl- there is slack, slouch, sludge, slime, slosh, sloppy, slug, slut, slang, sly, slow, sloth, sleepy, slipshod, slovenly, slum, slobber, slur, slog — where all these words have negative connotations, and some are particularly pejorative.

The idea that certain types of sounds “fit” particular objects better than others goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks. An obvious illustration of this is onomatopoeia. (The term refers to a type of word that sounds like the thing it is describing: fizz, whack, bang, and so on.) In a test carried out by researchers in the 1960s, artificial words were constructed using particular letters and combinations of letters thought to link to positive or negative feelings.

After hearing the invented words, the subjects were asked to match English words for pleasant or unpleasant emotions with one or the other of two invented words. The appropriate matches were made significantly more often than would be expected by chance.

Excerpted from Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, by Daniel Tammet. Copyright 2006 by Daniel Tammet. Reprinted by permission from Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster.

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What A Year! Photo Essay Captures An Extraordinary 2023

What a Year! Photo Essay Captures an Extraordinary 2023 From remote learning to the return to campus life this fall, a year unlike any other in BU history

Year in Review

What a Year! Photo Essay Captures an Extraordinary 2023 From remote learning to the return to campus life this fall, a year unlike any other in BU history

Before we get too far into 2023, we wanted to take a look back at 2023. It was a remarkable year by any measure, overshadowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which by December had claimed more than 800,000 lives in the United States. 

2023 marked year two of mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing on BU’s campuses, but also heralded the arrival of coronavirus vaccines and boosters. And it was a year that saw not one, but two Commencement ceremonies: the first, in May, for the Class of 2023 without family members or guests present, and another in October for the Class of 2023, whose ceremony was delayed 17 months because of the pandemic.

This photo essay from BU Today photographers Janice Checchio, Jackie Ricciardi, and Cydney Scott, and others, captures how the year played out on campus, tracing the transition from remote learning to the resumption of residential life, live performances, and fans in the bleachers.  

Below, take a look back chronologically at an unforgettable year.

Ayush Kadakia (ENG’24) moves back into his West Campus digs for the spring 2023 semester on January 21. The weather was anything but springlike. Photo by Cydney Scott

Instead of its usual role of hosting large University gatherings, such as celebrations and appearances by well-known speakers, on January 25, the Metcalf Ballroom was the site of the semester’s first History of International Relations Since 1945 class, taught by Igor Lukes, a CAS professor of history and international relations. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

BU Athletics annual Pride Week Celebration supporting the LBGTQIA+ community was held January 31 through February 6, with various panels and events hosted via Zoom by Athlete Ally, the Athletics student-led organization that fosters an inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ student-athletes and allies. The women’s hockey Terriers—among them Jesse Compher (SHA’21) (from left), Clare O’Leary (CAS’24), Mackenna Parker (CAS’22), and Kaleigh Donnelly (CAS’22)—wore rainbow masks to show support before their February 5 game against Merrimack. Photo courtesy of Patrick Donnelly

When club sports started back up at FitRec in February, there was much rejoicing. Water polo club members, among them Laith Hijazi (CGS’21), on February 21 follow University-approved health and safety protocols, including distancing during practice, but are able to go mask-free while in the water. Photo by Cydney Scott

A cross? A lowercase “t”? No, it’s the COM Lawn, viewed from the Kilachand Center top floor, with some additions—Adirondack chairs placed around campus by the University so everyone can enjoy the much-anticipated, much-longed-for spring weather (while social distancing) on March 23. Photo by Cydney Scott

On April 10, Boston University Upward Bound, a federally funded TRIO Program providing outreach and student services to low-income and first-generation college students from Boston Public Schools, celebrated its 30th anniversary. Former Upward Bound student William Onuoha, executive director of Boston’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity, read a proclamation from Boston Mayor Kim Janey declaring April 10 Upward Bound Day. The proclamation recognizes “30 years of collective work of helping students access educational opportunity and [celebrates] being part of this family,” said Upward Bound director Reggie Jean (CAS’95, Wheelock’04) (holding proclamation). Photo courtesy of Wheelock College

The BU women’s tennis team won their fifth Patriot League championship in eight seasons on Sunday, May 2, beating Navy 4-3 and earning them a spot in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Photo courtesy of BU Athletics

Yuqing Wu (COM’23) receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot from Healthway RN Kristin Lopes at FitRec May 4. Boston Medical Center had provided the University with several thousand doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for BU students, faculty, and staff needing their first or second shot. Photo by Cydney Scott

Whole lotta studyin’ goin’ on: Jack Gardiner (Sargent’22) (left) and Julia Lee (Sargent’22) are among the finals-minded Terriers working on the BU Beach outdoor village April 20. Photo by Cydney Scott

On June 13, a Campus Climate Lab team installed an herb garden on the Warren Towers fourth floor patio, with the intention of creating a living-learning lab for students to better understand the importance of urban gardening. Sidney Hare (CAS’22), who has worked on the idea for some time, and nine other students brought in crates, dirt, herbs, and flowers and got to work. Photo by Lauren Richards (COM’22)

Celebrating a partnership: On July 12, Boston University and Steward Health Care’s St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (SEMC) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the new five-year affiliation between BU and SEMC, which went into effect July 1. Helping to wield the scissors: Anna Hohler, SEMC chair of neurology (from left); Harrison Bane, president of Steward Health Care North Region; James Terwilliger, SEMC president; Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost; Sanjay Shetty, Steward North America president; and Frank Pomposelli, SEMC chair of surgery. Photo by Cydney Scott

Members of BU School of Medicine’s Class of 2025, Austen Mauch (from left), Nisha Mathur, Saaz Mantri, Avni Madhani, and Kendra Lujan, embark on their medical careers at MED’s annual White Coat Ceremony on Talbot Green, August 2. Photo by Cydney Scott

An annual sight: students rolling yellow bins up and down Comm Ave during Move-In. August 16 presaged the return of a fully occupied campus, albeit with pandemic-necessitated safety protocols in place. Photo by Cydney Scott

The BU Class of 2025 Matriculation procession, August 29: In a long-standing tradition, incoming class members march to their welcome and initiation ceremony. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

BU’s ceremony honoring 2023’s 27 Thomas M. Menino Scholars and 57 BU Community Service Award scholarship recipients, all graduates of Boston Public Schools (BPS), was held August 31 at the Questrom School of Business. Robert A. Brown (left), BU president, Brenda Cassellius (center), BPS superintendent, and 2023 Menino Scholar Jami Huang (CAS’22) spoke at the ceremony. Bumping elbows with Cassellius is 2023 recipient and Boston Latin School grad Christian Badawi (CAS’25). Photo by Jake Belcher

What’s a sure sign of a new BU school year? Correct—it’s Lobster Night! The annual event has become a wildly popular tradition. Yan Huang (Questrom’22) (left) and Zitong Zhao (Questrom’22) enjoyed their lobsters at Marciano September 9. Photo by Lauren Richards (COM’22)

The Newbury Center, BU’s support hub for first-generation students—undergrad, grad, and nontraditional—held a grand opening and open house for the BU community on September 3. Maria Dykema Erb, center director (at podium), welcomed guests on Marsh Plaza. Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, and Crystal Williams, former vice president and associate provost for community and inclusion, were among the speakers. Photo by Cydney Scott

The all-female Veronica Robles Mariachi Quartet was among the vibrant performers at the fourth annual BU Global Music Festival on September 18. Because of COVID, the performances were outdoors, at the BU Beach and on Marsh Plaza—“a silver lining” to the event, according to CFA’s Marié Abe, festival artistic director. Photo by David Green

The final beam for the Center for Computing & Data Sciences building on Comm Ave was put in place September 30. After a lunch on the COM Lawn for about 350 people, who were able to sign the beam, it was moved to the project site to be hoisted. Among those at the momentous occasion: Robert A. Brown, BU president (from right to left), Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, and Azer Bestavros, associate provost for computing and data sciences. In the photo at right, the final beam, covered in signatures, is in place. The event celebrated the “topping-off” tradition milestone and was a thank-you to the workers. Photos by Cydney Scott

When Ethan Wang left for a BU Study Abroad semester in Sydney in 2023, it was with anticipation and excitement. A few weeks later, a surfing accident made it look like he would never walk again. But with grit, determination, his family’s support and encouragement, and the best medical care in Singapore and Boston, Wang (CAS’20) (front right) on October 2 walked across the stage at the Class of 2023 College of Arts & Sciences Recognition Event, and was handed his diploma by his father, Willis Wang, BU vice president and associate provost for global programs. The event was held in Agganis Arena as part of BU’s historic delayed 2023 Commencement. Photo by Cydney Scott

On October 2, Wheelock Family Theatre celebrated four decades of entertaining families with a 40th Family Reunion held on the Fenway Campus green. Billed as “part picnic, part performance, part creative playground,” the reunion included performances from past productions. Actor, director, and composer Jane Staab (center), a theater cofounder and co–artistic director for 33 years, was among the celebrants. Photo by Michael D. Spencer

Boston University’s 39th annual Joint Service Pass-in-Review was held on Nickerson Field October 23. Each year, cadets from BU’s Division of Military Education Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps ROTC programs, consisting of cadets from several area schools, join together for the ceremony, one of the Army’s long-standing traditions.  Pictured above: Color Guard Commander Cadet Nathan Tadigiri of UMass Boston (from left), Cadet Kenneth Ziniti (Questrom’24), Cadet Salem Adda-Berkane (CAS’23, ENG’23), Cadet Joseph Carey (CGS’22), Midshipman Sasha Wong, Midshipman Ian Benitez-Rio, Cadet Jacob Bresnahan, and Cadet Ju Young Kang (Questrom’24). Photo by Chris McIntosh

A memorial service for BU President Emeritus Jon Westling (Hon.’03), BU’s eighth president, was held at Marsh Chapel on October 27. Westling came to the University in 1974 and his career at BU spanned 46 years and included several top leadership posts. His son, Matthew Westling (CGS’04, CAS’06), read the Wallace Stevens poem, “Invective against Swans,” during the service. Photo by Jacob Chang-Rascle (COM’22)

After Travis Roy was paralyzed from the neck down in his first BU hockey game in 1995, he went on to establish the Travis Roy Foundation, which helps those with similar injuries and has donated millions in grants for spinal cord research. On October 29, the one-year anniversary of his death, BU honored Roy (COM’00, Hon.’16) at Agganis Arena. Pictured are: Albie O’Connell (CAS’99), men’s hockey head coach (from left); Jack Parker (Questrom’68, Hon.’97), former head coach; Roy’s parents, Brenda and Lee; Jay Pandolfo (CAS’96), associate head coach; and Drew Marrochello, assistant vice president and athletics director. Photo by Chris Lyons

A scene from Colossal, a movement-heavy piece following a star college football player in the wake of a spinal cord injury, tackles themes of love, ability, masculinity, and how we use our bodies to communicate along the way. The piece was part of CFA’s annual Fringe Festival. Rehearsing (above): Donovan Black (CFA’22). Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

MBTA Green Line B Branch’s Amory Street Station Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, November 16: Andres Achury, senior director, project, Green Line Transformation (GLT) (from left); Desiree Patrice, GLT senior director, project; Angel Peña, chief of capital transformation programs; Steve Poftak, MBTA general manager; Kenneth Green, chief, MBTA Transit Police; Derek Howe, BU senior vice president of operations; and Shauna Connelly, GLT senior project coordinator. Photo by Janice Checchio

Trans Listening Circle treasurer Kaiden Kane (Sargent’21) (center) and circle members placed 400 trans flags on Alpert Mall (aka the BU Beach) November 19 in remembrance of the 375 transgender people reported murdered internationally within the last year. They did so in observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held annually on November 20. Photo by Jake Belcher

Rabbi Shmuel Posner of Chabad House of Greater Boston lights the menorah outside the George Sherman Union during the fourth night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, on December 1. Photo by Cydney Scott

The 20th Aurora Borealis: A Festival of Light and Dance was performed at the BU Dance Theater December 6, presented by the CFA School of Theatre and the Department of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. The annual event features dance and movement pieces by faculty and students in a vibrant exploration of the relationship between light and form. Photo by Jacob Chang-Rascle (COM’22)

Another revered and much-anticipated University tradition was held in person on December 10: Marsh Chapel’s 48th annual Service of Christmas Lessons and Carols. The liturgy, based on the University of Cambridge King’s College iconic century-old Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, included a selection of Christmas carols, motets, and anthems. Photo by Jake Belcher

Each year around the holidays, Terrier student-athletes visit Boston public elementary schools to read to students and give them a book. BU soccer player Claire Orson (Questrom’22) and several fellow athletes were able to visit in person this year on December 13, much to the enjoyment of Blackstone School students. Last year’s visit had to be virtual because of the pandemic. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

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A Day At The Atom Smasher

A Day at the Atom Smasher BU grad student living and working at the CERN particle physics lab

Jeremy Love (GRS’10) is living and working at the CERN particle physics laboratory outside Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Chris Berdik. (Below) The ATLAS control room celebrates the first complete pass of a proton.

On a chilly November morning, Jeremy Love (GRS’10) is standing in front of a large, wooden globe of a building outside Geneva, Switzerland, on the Meyrin campus of CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), an international physics research center also known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Love’s a skinny guy with a dark scruff of beard. He’s wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and an olive backpack, and looking pretty casual for somebody who aims to help solve the mysteries of the universe by creating millions of mini–big bangs.

All that science will take place about 100 meters below ground in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), enclosed in a 27-kilometer concrete tunnel that actually crosses the border between Switzerland and France. The LHC is the world’s most powerful atom smasher, a machine that physicists have been anticipating for decades. It was finally turned on September 10 — and then it promptly broke down, launching a laborious eight- to ten-month repair process.

Love arrived at CERN last June, and he’ll be here until the summer of 2010, part of a team of Boston University physicists attached to one of the LHC’s main particle detectors, a five-story bundle of trackers, calorimeters, magnets, and other instrumentation known as ATLAS. Inside the detector, protons will collide at nearly the speed of light, and physicists such as Love will sort through the debris looking for new particles that might help explain how the universe evolved.

The collisions in the LHC will reach energy levels seven times more powerful than any previous experiment has achieved. “And the higher energy you reach, the earlier in the universe you’re looking, because fractions of a second after the big bang, the universe’s energy was much more concentrated,” Love says. Heading off to a wooden building that sits atop ATLAS, he opens the door to reveal a cavernous room, crisscrossed with orange, green, and yellow girders, ventilation pipes, and a shoulder-high steel fence that rings two massive holes on either end of the concrete floor.

“You technically need a hard hat to be in here, but I think we’ll be all right,” says Love, ducking under some yellow caution tape and walking around to a short catwalk above one of the pits. Looking down into the guts of ATLAS (right), the top of the “muon system” — part of which was built at BU under the leadership of Steve Ahlen, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of physics — is visible. After other parts of the detector have tracked and trapped most of the charged particles that spray from a proton collision, this outermost system will measure the trajectories and energy of muons (like electrons, but heavier). And it’s this muon data that Love will eventually comb through for evidence of particles never before observed.

A siren sounds, and a yellow light flashes on a crane hovering over the opposite pit. They’re moving a piece of the detector, Love explains, part of the laborious repair work under way ever since a faulty electrical connection led to a major leak of liquid helium (used to keep the LHC colder than space) and forced the shutdown of the proton beam in late September. The experiment won’t start up again for at least six months, says Love, because everything must be fixed within the relatively tight confines of the LHC tunnel.

“It’s like a ship in a bottle,” he says. “To get to interior pieces, they have to move the outside pieces. So there’s this sort of intricate dance of how things are uncovered and repaired.”

Because the beam is shut down, Love spends a lot of his time down in the ATLAS experimental cavern 100 meters below, performing routine maintenance on the muon system, harnessed for safety as he tinkers dozens of feet off the ground. When the beam eventually comes back online and the proton collisions begin at a rate of thousands every second, Love will start analyzing the data, using specially designed software to sift through the collisions looking for the telltale signals of new particles. The LHC will produce enough data every year to roughly double all the information currently on the Internet.

The hope for that information is to help scientists discover what’s beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the simplest known particles (such as electrons and quarks) and the forces that act on them (such as electromagnetism and the force responsible for nuclear decay). For decades, this model has left particle physicists “unsatisfied,” as Love puts it — the model neglects gravity and offers no explanation for the imbalance of matter and antimatter, or “dark matter,” a phenomenon indicating that most of the universe’s mass is invisible, because it doesn’t emit light. In addition, the model’s explanation of why some particles have mass and others, such as photons, don’t, predicts the existence of a particle (known as the Higgs, named after the theorist who proposed it) that has yet to be observed.

In the last few decades, several theories have been proposed to explain what the Standard Model doesn’t. Each of them predicts the existence of new particles that LHC scientists will be hunting for in the years ahead. First, however, they’ll need to spend a lot of time getting the proton beams to curve just right and calibrating every bit of the particle detectors.

“It’s difficult, when you’re working on an experiment this big, not to get lost in the details and forget that there is a big picture,” says Love, who first became interested in cosmic questions when he read theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. But even with the beam temporarily shut down, he is thrilled about working at CERN.

“If you’re not motivated by understanding the universe, it’s probably not going to keep you interested,” he says. “What keeps everybody here motivated is the drive to understand what nobody else understands.”

Chris Berdik can be reached at [email protected].

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Inside The Race To Develop A Safe Covid

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the United States and abroad, researchers are racing to develop a vaccine at record-breaking speeds. In a June 23 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine being ready by early 2023.

“The development of a vaccine for a new pathogen typically takes many years and sometimes decades,” says Dan Barouch, the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “The attempt to develop COVID-19 vaccines in a year is truly unprecedented in the history of vaccinology.”

To date, more than 145 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are currently under development in laboratories around the world. Barouch and his colleagues are working on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate with the New Jersey-based company Johnson & Johnson, which will begin the first of several stages of human trials later this month. A number of other vaccine candidates have already entered human testing, including ones developed by researchers at Oxford University and the biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics in Massachusetts.

Before any vaccine can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, though, its creators must demonstrate that it is both safe and actually protects people from the intended disease—and many potential vaccines fail somewhere along the way. Here’s how researchers are hoping to streamline this complex, expensive process.

“The goal for COVID-19 vaccine development is to move the vaccine programs forward as fast as possible so long as safety and scientific integrity are not compromised,” Barouch says. “What is not acceptable is any sort of cutting corners that would result in patient safety risks, because safety is the most important part of any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine, even during a pandemic”

A new vaccine candidate must first be tested in animals before undergoing three phases of clinical trials in people. These tests investigate whether the potential vaccine could have any harmful side effects, what dose is needed, what kind of immune response it causes, and how effective it is in large numbers of people. Then, after a vaccine has been licensed, researchers will continue to monitor it to see how well it performs in the general population and to make sure there aren’t any extremely rare reactions that weren’t seen until many more doses had been given, says Bruce Gellin, the president of global immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C.

One hypothetical concern that can arise during this process is that, if a vaccine contains ingredients that resemble molecules found in our bodies, it could trigger an autoimmune reaction, says Patricia Winokur, the executive dean of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. For example, the drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline discontinued its FDA-approved vaccine for Lyme disease due to rare reports in the early 2000s of the vaccine supposedly triggering arthritis. To date, researchers have found no evidence that this was actually happening to people who had received the vaccine.

Today, researchers have sequenced the human genome, as well as that of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, officially known as SARS-CoV-2. “We can see whether there is anything in those proteins that is similar to anything in the human body,” Winokur says. “That helps us make pretty scientific estimates that this vaccine would be safe over the long haul.”

Additionally, the kinds of vaccine candidates that might cause this type of problem tend to include adjuvants—ingredients intended to help the vaccine provoke a more powerful immune response to the virus. While many approved vaccines include adjuvants, verifying their safety adds additional time to the development process. “But the early [COVID-19] vaccines that seem to be on the fast track do not have adjuvants, so you have removed even that concern,” Winokur says.

Scientists will also be on the lookout for the possibility that a COVID-19 vaccine candidate could, in very rare instances, create an immune response that actually worsens the severity of the disease if the person is later exposed to the real virus. Scientists worried that this may have occurred in previous animal studies of experimental vaccines against SARS (another coronavirus). “That’s the scenario that we would need to be watching very carefully in these rapid vaccine studies,” Winokur says. So far, monkeys that received vaccines developed by the Oxford team and the Beijing-based company Sinovac Biotech (which includes an inactivated version of SARS-CoV-2) have not developed exacerbated disease after being exposed to the virus.

There are many different kinds of vaccine candidates for COVID-19 under development. One strategy that may allow researchers to develop a COVID-19 vaccine particularly swiftly is using pieces of DNA or RNA that code for the spike-shaped protein on the surface of the virus. This protein helps the virus latch onto and infect human cells and seems to be the component that our immune systems react most strongly against. These bits of genetic material prompt our own cells to build copies of the spike protein, which cannot cause disease on its own but can train the immune system to recognize the real virus in the future.

Because DNA and RNA vaccines only include fragments of genetic material, they can potentially be developed and evaluated for safety more quickly than traditional vaccines for which a weakened or inactivated form of the virus must be grown. That said, researchers still have to determine how effective this new kind of vaccine will be; no vaccines based on this technology have been licensed yet.

Although COVID-19 is a new disease, researchers have also had a head start on developing vaccine candidates because of previous work on vaccines for other coronaviruses such as the ones that cause SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The vaccine candidate created by Oxford University researchers was able to move into human trials rapidly because the team had used a similar technique to develop a vaccine candidate for MERS and had already shown that it was safe in people.

Certain characteristics of the novel virus may also bode well for our chances of developing a vaccine quickly. Viruses are often less complicated than bacteria or parasites like the one that causes malaria, Winokur says. This makes it easier for scientists to figure out which parts of the virus are likely to be the components that cause the body to mount an immune response and create antibodies that will protect us from future infections. Preliminary research also hints that the body may create a robust immune response after being exposed to the novel coronavirus or its protein pieces, which could give vaccine makers a blueprint for designing an effective preventative drug.

Still, scientists have not yet determined what an immune response that would successfully protect a person from COVID-19 looks like, Winokur says. Because of this, demonstrating that a COVID-19 vaccine candidate can actually prevent infection could be a challenge. “That will be harder to evaluate in a rapidly developed vaccine,” she says.

To find out whether a vaccine candidate is effective, researchers must inoculate a large number of people and then wait and see whether fewer of them catch COVID-19 than people who received a placebo. “The more disease that is [out] there, the quicker you can assess how well a vaccine performs,” Gellin says. By its nature, a pandemic will provide many potential opportunities for participants in these trials to be exposed to the virus. “There is so much virus out there [that] you’d probably be able to determine that relatively quickly.”

There are also ways to compress the time needed to move a vaccine candidate through clinical trials. Because COVID-19 poses such a dire threat to public health, scientists are planning large clinical trials that can launch as soon as the results from smaller, earlier-stage trials for a vaccine candidate arrive, Barouch says. Normally, researchers would have to wait until these early studies had concluded before they could even begin to contemplate designing their next round of testing.

“There is no additional risk to patient safety because the larger study doesn’t start until data exists from the smaller study, but the time lag between finishing a phase I/II study and starting a phase III study could be on the order of days as opposed to years,” Barouch says.

The process of producing vaccines on a large scale can be sped up as well in response to the pandemic. “Many companies are starting to mass produce vaccines even now as we speak, before they have any indication that it’s actually effective,” Barouch says. “By willingness to take [that] financial risk, companies can accelerate the process at a speed that has never been done before.”

Even though researchers are working at breakneck speed to design and evaluate candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine, their efforts may not bear immediate fruit. “It is theoretically possible that a vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization by this winter, but that is in no way guaranteed,” Barouch says. “That will require many things all happening well the first time around, and as we know from science and medicine not everything works out the first time around.”

And even if a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available in record time, it’s unlikely there will be enough doses to meet the enormous worldwide demand for it immediately. Ultimately, we will probably need a widely-available vaccine to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. But while we wait for that vaccine to materialize, we can at least use measures like wearing masks and social distancing whenever possible to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“With a vaccine, you want to have people protected as quickly as possible,” Gellin says. “But should they have to wait, there are still ways that they can protect themselves.”

Our Sun Might Have Been Born With An Evil Twin Called ‘Nemesis’

NASA released this October-appropriate image of the sun last week, showing active regions that mimic a Jack-O’-Lantern’s toothy grin. It’s just a coincidence, but it’s nice to see old Sol getting in on the Halloween action. NASA/GSFC/SDO

Sunlike stars often come in twos and threes, and astronomers and astrophysicists have long wondered why. Are these pairs and trios born as multiple stars orbiting the same point, or do they meet up when the gravity of one star captures another?

A new analysis out of Harvard and UC-Berkeley suggests that, in fact, nearly all stars are likely born with a twin—including our own sun. The findings, recently accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, are based on observations of newborn stars in a large cloud in the constellation Perseus.

Stars are born inside egg-shaped clouds called dense cores. These dusty gas clouds block the light from the stars inside and behind them. But fortunately for us, radio waves can penetrate through the darkness. The Very Large Array recently used radio waves to map all the young stars in the Perseus nursery, and the researchers drew on this data to understand the relationships between stars of different ages.

They found that binary stars separated by distances of 500 AU or more—that’s 500 times the distance between Earth and the sun—were extremely young stars less than 500,000 years old. In these systems, the two stars tended to be aligned with the long axis of the egg-shaped cloud.

Slightly older stars, between 500,000 and a million years old, tended to be closer together—separated by about 200 AU—and had no particular alignment within the cloud.

The study authors came up with a variety of mathematical models to explain the stars’ distribution, and concluded that the only way it makes sense is if all stars with sunlike masses start off with distant twins. Over the course of a million years or so, about 60 percent of the pairs split up (the authors think) and the rest ease in closer to one another.

The results support computer simulations that previously suggested stars form in twos, as well as observations that younger stars are more likely than older stars to form binary pairs. But the authors caution that the findings need to be checked in other star-forming clouds, and that more work needs to be done to understand the physics of this phenomenon.

If the results can be replicated, they’ll provide new evidence that the sun formed with a (non-identical) twin located 17 times farther away than Neptune. And it might have been an evil twin to boot. Scientists call this long-hypothesized twin “Nemesis“, because they suspect it booted the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs into Earth’s orbit.

“We are saying, yes, there probably was a Nemesis, a long time ago,” co-author Steven Stahler of UC Berkeley said in a statement.

But Nemesis has never been found. If it ever existed, it must have escaped from the gravitational pull of our sun and run off into the Milky Way, never to be seen again. So much for family.

Ways To Gain Emotional Weight Loss With The Power Of Your Mind

What Is Emotional Weight Loss, and What Are Some Ways to Achieve It?

Emotional weight loss is losing weight without any physical or dietary changes. It is a process that helps you to remove the triggers that cause emotional eating and embrace healthy habits.

Weight loss triggers are often triggered by fear, anger, sadness, and stress. These emotions can cause us to eat more than usual and crave comfort foods high in sugar and fat.

There are many ways to lose weight by using your mind, such as meditation, visualization, and mindfulness. The impressive power of your mind can help you lose weight without dieting or exercising. One way to use the power of your mind is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT enables you to change your thoughts and behaviors to be more positive and healthy.

For example, using the cbt weight loss app by Lasta and getting rid of emotional triggers such as negative thoughts or feelings. It focuses on your individual needs and keeps track of your progress in an easy-to-understand way.

Lasta app can help you change your lifestyle by quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. It also proposes some psychological techniques that can help you to achieve emotional weight loss, such as Meditation.

7 Powerful Tips on How to Deal with Emotional Eating & Overcoming Triggers

Emotional eating can be a severe problem. It can cause weight gain, anxiety, depression, and health problems. But you don’t need to go through the struggle alone. There are specific steps you can take to overcome this problem.

1. Find a healthy way to express your feelings, like journaling or painting

Journaling or painting can help you release your emotions and express them healthily if you struggle with emotional eating. Journaling allows you to write down your inner thoughts and feelings without judgment, while images enable you to explore the beauty of your emotions on paper.

2. Write an apology letter to yourself with positive affirmations

It’s always hard to admit when you’re wrong. But it’s even harder to accept that you’re not perfect, and we must apologize for our mistakes and learn from them. Affirmations are a tool that helps us release negativity and replace it with positivity. They are excellent tools to use when writing a letter.

3. Permit yourself to eat something unhealthy if you need it temporarily

Many people turn to fav food when they feel frustrated, angry, or sad. It’s a common coping mechanism that is effective for short-term relief. But it can also lead to bad decisions and unhealthy habits. If you struggle with emotional eating, try these tips and tricks to help you break the cycle.

4. Prepare ahead of time so you can avoid those triggers that cause you stress or anxiety

When you are hungry, it can be challenging to resist the urge to eat food that is not good for you. In addition, certain things can cause you stress or anxiety and make you eat emotionally. Therefore, it is essential to prepare ahead of time so that when these triggers come up, you have a plan in place.

5. Start small and build up your willpower

It takes work to stop emotional eating. The first step is to start small and build up your willpower. Next, recognize that you’re overwhelmed and break from temptation. Then try again.

6. Keep a list of your favorite foods and snacks

When you are emotionally stressed, it is easy to turn to food as a source of comfort. Emotional eating is not always a bad habit and can be helpful when you’re genuinely struggling with depression or anxiety. However, many permanently change their relationship with food as their habits cause health issues and weight gain. To break this cycle, write down your favorite foods and snacks.

7. Try mindful eating techniques

Emotional eating is a dangerous thing. It can be challenging to stop, but there are ways to reduce your emotional eating. First, try mindful eating techniques such as journaling about what you eat, listening to your natural hunger signals, and cooking with spices or herbs.

How to Eat Fewer Sweets Using Your Mind & Managing Your Environment?

There are a lot of sweet foods that are readily available in our environment. However, it is challenging to avoid them if we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This is where mindfulness comes into play. It helps us understand how our mind reacts to certain situations and how we can use the power of our mind to control what we eat and when we eat.

Sweeteners are added to many foods, from bread and cereal to pasta sauce and yogurt. You can reduce sugar intake by limiting the number of sweeteners you eat or using less in your recipes.

Don’t focus on the sweetness of foods.

Focus on how food tastes instead of how it looks.

Avoid eating sweets before bedtime.

Add flavor without adding sugar with herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and vanilla extract.

How to Increase Self-Worth While You Lose Weight

It is not easy to lose weight because it requires changing your lifestyle. You need to eat healthily and exercise more. However, you also need to be happy with yourself.

Self-worth is hard for people to achieve, even when they are on the right path to achieving their goals. However, self-worth can be increased by looking at the progress you’ve made so far and celebrating your achievements.

It’s important that people celebrate their accomplishments and feel good about themselves because feeling good will make them want to continue their journey toward a healthy lifestyle.

The best way to increase your self-worth while losing weight is to focus on the process rather than the outcome. For example, think about how many steps you take in a day or what you eat daily instead of how much you weigh. When you are focused on the process, staying committed and avoiding temptations that might lead to quitting becomes more effortless.

How to Curb Negative Thoughts That Contribute to Emotional Eating & Overcoming Triggers

A study by the University of Pennsylvania revealed that people who were more concerned about their weight were more likely to eat emotionally. This is because they have a negative view of themselves and believe they deserve to eat bad food because they are “fat.”

People on a diet often feel like they need to deprive themselves of certain foods or go hungry to lose weight. However, this is not healthy, and it can lead to bingeing later on.

When a negative thought poped up about yourself or your body, replace it with a positive one using this acronym: RULES (Recognize You are Loved)!


Use these five tips on working towards successful weight loss & building self-esteem.

There is a myriad of people who are working towards their weight loss goals. Whether they have been struggling with obesity for some time or just trying to get back into shape, there are a lot of ways that you can work towards success.

Here are five tips on how to work towards successful weight loss and building self-esteem:

Be patient with yourself; it takes time for your body to adjust to changes in diet and exercise routine.

Take small steps to make significant changes over time.

Keep track of what you eat so that you can keep track of your progress.

Be mindful of what triggers negative emotions when trying to lose weight.

Don’t compare yourself against others; you’re a “winner” in an individual weight-loss game.

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