April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month

Increasing awareness of mathematics and statistics is vitally important. Both play a significant role in addressing many real-world problems, including climate change, disease, sustainability, the data deluge, and internet security. Research in these and other areas is ongoing, yielding new results and applications every day in fields such as medicine, manufacturing, energy, biotechnology, and business. Mathematics and statistics are important drivers of innovation in our technological world, where new systems and methodologies continue to become more complex.

SIAM is dedicated to fostering an understanding and appreciation of mathematics and statistics, and ensuring the health of these disciplines worldwide. From our many publications to membership services, conferences, programs, and international partnerships, we are proud to contribute to the global footprint. Learn more about SIAM’s mission and how you can get involved in April and all year long!

Here are a few words from Kathleen Kavanagh, SIAM Vice President for Education, that shed light on why she feels Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month is important. “It’s important to foster the appreciation of mathematics so everyone can start to see the world around them through that lens.

CaptureI love hearing my ten-year-old daughter try to figure out how to split eight cinnamon buns between her and her two friends. I am lucky that she already loves math. Unfortunately, even for me, it is easy to get caught up in the “plug and chug” textbook problems when teaching. But my whole class perks up when I talk about my internship in graduate school and how I used integration by parts in order to simplify a model I was using to describe ground water flow. They are interested in modeling and real world, interdisciplinary problems. It’s  critical to present math as a tool for finding solutions to relevant problems, and Math and Stats Awareness Month   helps spread the word.”

Humans are wiping out chimpanzee cultures


Older group members demonstrate important behaviors for younger chimpanzees

By Gretchen Vogel

When chimpanzees encounter humans, it’s usually bad news for the chimps. Logging, hunting, and epidemics have helped push chimpanzee populations to the brink across their range in West and Central Africa. Now, a new study suggests human activity may also rob chimp populations of their cultures.

Chimpanzees perform distinct behaviors, such as using tools to crack nuts or collect termites, that are passed on from one generation to the next, like human culture. These behaviors include adaptations that can be crucial for the animals’ survival—but chimp groups living near people have fewer such behaviors, according to the study. The authors say “chimpanzee cultural heritage sites” may be needed to protect key behaviors. “A lot of conservation effort is focused on species diversity and genetic diversity, but we need to look at cultural diversity as well,” says Hjalmar Kühl, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who helped lead the study.


Nearly 2 decades ago, primatologist Carel van Schaik, an emeritus professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, proposed that human impacts like habitat destruction and poaching could wipe out key behaviors in great apes.  (Van Schaik studied cultural behaviors in orangutans.) For example, a population may lose important traditions when a key resource it involved—like kola nuts—becomes scarce, or when fewer experienced group members are alive to pass on the behavior. But it has been hard to collect enough data to test the hypothesis.

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Healthy habits for healthy families


American Psychological Association

Over the last 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 More than a third of children and teens are now overweight or obese. And unhealthy eating habits can continue into adulthood.

Luckily, parents and caregivers can help jumpstart and then sustain a healthy lifestyle for children and adolescents.

A model of good behavior

You play an important role as guide and coach for your children as they make choices about eating.

And the effect your actions have can be profound. For example, research has shown that just eating together as a family can improve children’s nutritional health.2 In families who shared at least three meals a week, children were 24 percent more likely to be eating healthy foods than those in families who ate few or no meals together. The children were also 12 percent less likely to be overweight, 20 percent less likely to eat unhealthy foods and 35 percent less likely to engage in dangerous weight-loss efforts like purging, taking diet pills and laxatives, or vomiting.

Although the researchers don’t know for sure why family meals are so effective, they note that homemade meals are typically lower calorie. Plus, eating together lets adults model good behavior and intervene when behaviors threaten to become bad habits.

Those family meals shouldn’t include the television, however. That’s because children who regularly watch TV during meals have unhealthier diets. In one study, for example, children whose families rarely or never turned on the TV during family meals were less likely to eat chips, soda and other junk foods.3

Making dinner time a family event, even if the meal is something simple, encourages a healthy attitude toward eating.

What you can do??

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Study: Increased risk of heart attack, stroke in months leading up to a cancer diagnosis

Risk greatest in people with later-stage cancers and lung and colon cancers

Older adults with cancer are more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke in the months prior to their cancer diagnosis compared with similar adults who do not have cancer during the same period, according to a report published online in Blood. Lung, and colon cancers, as well as advanced-staged cancers, appear to be most strongly associated with an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke caused by blood clots in the arteries.

The study is the largest and most systematic evaluation of these events leading up to a cancer diagnosis, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“Our data show there is an associated risk of ischemic stroke and heart attack that begins to increase in the five months before the cancer is officially diagnosed and peaks in the month just before,” said lead study author Babak Navi, MD, MS, an associate professor of neurology in the Department of Neurology and of neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “These results suggest that cancer’s effect on the clotting system may be what’s predominantly driving the associated risk of heart attacks and stroke.”

Cancers can take months and sometimes years to develop and be diagnosed, and some cancers may be exerting biological effects on the body, especially thromboembolic activity, before they come to medical attention, he explained.


Two common flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes can damage lung cells

In lab tests, the additives, including one associated with ‘popcorn lung,’ decrease the numbers of cells that keep airways clean

acs blog

Known for its buttery aroma, diacetyl is a popular flavorant in the food industry. In the early 2000s, studies revealed an association between the compound and bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung,” a disease first observed in workers at popcorn factories that causes dry cough and wheezing. In 2012, the US Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association issued workplace exposure limits for diacetyl and its close analog 2,3-pentanedione and recommended that the chemicals carry a warning label explaining that inhaling fumes containing the compounds could be harmful.


Diacetyl is also the most common of several hundred flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes, and a 2016 study of 51 e-cigarette products found that more than half contained 2,3-pentanedione. Now, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania has evaluated the effect of the two flavoring chemicals on human bronchial epithelial cells in culture and proposed a possible mechanism for how they could impair lung function (Sci. Rep. 2019, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-37913-9).


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How to Harness Your Anxiety

Research shows that we can tame anxiety to use it as a resource.


The New York Times

By Alicia H. Clark

Anxiety has long been one of the most feared enemies in our emotional canon. We fear its arrival, feel helpless and trapped under its spell, and grant it power to overtake us in new, exciting and challenging situations. But what if we’ve been going about it all wrong?

Research shows that anxiety can actually be a pathway to our best selves. A range of new neuroscience, along with ideas from ancient philosophy, Charles Darwin, early social scientists and positive psychology, have all pointed in this direction.

To be sure, severe anxiety can be debilitating. But for many people who experience it at more moderate levels it can be helpful, if we are open enough to embrace and reframe it.

For example, if anxiety is holding you back from applying for a new job, tell yourself that the feeling of your heart racing, which you thought was the discomfort of anxiety, is actually a crackle of excitement. This can help motivate you to apply for the job rather than shrinking from the opportunity.

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Brain-eating amoebae halted by silver nanoparticles

“Clinically-Approved Drugs Against CNS Diseases as Potential Therapeutic Agents to Target Brain-Eating Amoebae”

ACS Chemical Neuroscience


Halloween is just around the corner, and some people will celebrate by watching scary movies about brain-eating zombies. But even more frightening are real-life parasites that feed on the human brain, and they can be harder to kill than their horror-movie counterparts. Now, researchers have developed silver nanoparticles coated with anti-seizure drugs that can kill brain-eating amoebae while sparing human cells. The researchers report their results in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Although infections with brain-eating amoebae (Naegleria fowleri) are rare, they are almost always deadly. Most cases result from inhaling warm, dirty water in ponds, hot springs or unchlorinated swimming pools. Another species, Acanthamoeba castellanii, can cause blindness by entering the eyes through dirty contact lenses. Common treatments include antimicrobial drugs, but they often cause severe side effects because of the high doses required for them to enter the brain. Ayaz Anwar and colleagues wondered if three anti-seizure drugs — diazepam, phenobarbitone and phenytoin — could kill amoebae, alone or in combination with silver nanoparticles. The drugs are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are known to cross the blood-brain barrier. The researchers reasoned that they might be more effective when attached to silver nanoparticles, which can improve the delivery of some drugs and also have their own antimicrobial effects.

The team chemically attached the drugs to silver nanoparticles and examined their ability to kill amoebae. They found that each of the three drugs alone could kill N. fowleri and A. castellanii, but they worked much better when bound to silver nanoparticles. The drug-nanoparticle combos protected human cells from the microbes, increasing their survival rate compared with untreated infected human cells. The researchers propose that these repurposed drugs, aided by the nanoparticles, might kill amoebae by binding to protein receptors or ion channels on the single-celled organism’s membrane.

Note: ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies.


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Green tea compound helps siRNA slip inside cells

Green Tea Catechin Dramatically Promotes RNAi Mediated by Low Molecular Weight Polymers
ACS Central Science


Drinking green tea has been linked to health benefits ranging from cardiovascular disease prevention to weight loss. Although many of these claims still need to be verified in the clinic, an antioxidant in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) appears to have beneficial effects in cells and animals. Now, researchers have found a surprising use for EGCG: sneaking therapeutic RNAs into cells. They report their results in ACS Central Science.

Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) have great therapeutic potential because they can dial down the expression of disease-related genes. However, getting siRNAs into cells where they can do their job has been challenging. Being relatively large and negatively charged, siRNAs cannot easily cross the cell membrane, and they are susceptible to degradation by RNA-chomping enzymes. To overcome these problems, some researchers have tried coating siRNAs with various polymers. However, most small polymers can’t shuttle siRNAs into cells, whereas larger polymers can be effective but are generally toxic. Yiyun Cheng and colleagues wondered if they could use EGCG, which is known to bind strongly to RNA, in combination with a small polymer to form nanoparticles that safely deliver siRNA into cells.


Why You Can Look Forward to Being Happier in Old Age


If life wanted to mess with you, it couldn’t have come up with a better way than death. Especially the lead-up. Your strength flags; your world narrows; much of what once gave you pleasure and satisfaction is now gone. But as it turns out, happiness is still very much with you—often even more so than before.

In some ways, our youth and middle years are really a sort of training period for the unanticipated pleasure of being an older adult, psychologist Alan D. Castel of the University of California, Los Angeles, argues in his new book, Better With Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging. In one 2006 study -Castel cites, a group of 30-year-olds and 70-year-olds were asked which of the two age cohorts was likely to be happier. Both of them chose the 30-year-olds. But when those groups were asked about their own subjective happiness, the 70-year-olds came out on top.

Psychologists, anthropologists, and other investigators have long been intrigued by similar findings—that old age is often a time defined not by sorrow, dread, and regret but rather by peace, gratitude, and fulfillment. Investigators looking into the happy senescence phenomenon attribute it to a lot of things: seniors become masters of “terror management theory” or “constructive distraction” or “voluntary affirmation of the obligatory.” In other words, they figure: I’m gonna die? What else is new? Meantime, I’ve got my grandkids here.

Just as surprising as the happy oldster is the miserable middle-ager, Jonathan Rauch reports in his book The Happiness Curve, published in May. Life satisfaction appears to follow a U-shaped course, with its twin peaks in childhood, when the world is one great theme park, and in old age, when we’ve been on all the rides a thousand times and are perfectly content just to watch. It’s in the middle—our 40s and 50s, when our power, potential, and productivity are the greatest and we should be feeling our happiest—that life satisfaction bottoms out.


Is a Long-Term Care System Worth The Financial Plunge?

Demand for geriatrics healthcare research rise with the projected growth of the older population

By Sharlene Oong on Sep 4, 2018

Capture2From the East to the West, the population crisis is spreading all across the globe, from China to the United States. Medicaid expenditures in the U.S. are increasing, the workforce in Australia is shrinking due to population aging, and the exerting pressure on the young workforce to contribute enough personal income tax is on the rise. As China faces the effects of the one-child policy towards the demographics, these issues call for a common goal; advancing long-term supports and services (LTSS) for older adults.

“Long-term care (often also referred to as social care or aged care) consists of a mix of services to assist an impaired person to function in activities of daily living (ADL),” states Prof. Peter Yuen from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in his chapter, “ The Economics of Long-Term Care: Key Concepts and Major Financing and Delivery Models” from the publication Sustainable Health and Long-Term Care Solutions for an Aging Population. These daily living activities consist of: bathing, transferring, toileting, and dressing. Caring for an older adult also includes taking care of their incidental activities to daily living (IADLs), which include cooking, housekeeping, moving around, and managing personal finance. In order to provide care for the average older adult, the caretaker would need to invest time, energy and resources into the welfare of the patient.

The older adult population is expected to increase by 18 percent by 2020, and the rise in Medicaid expenditures is exerting pressure on the call to advance long-term supports and services (LTSS) by older adults. The U.S. is not the only one experiencing this increase, but the generations in countries all over the world are expected to “double in coming decades across the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), growing from 4 percent in 2010 to close to 10 percent by 2050,” states Prof. Yuen.

With the older population rapidly rising in the U.S., and in nations all across the globe, long-term care is singled out as the solution to the problem. According to Prof. Yuen, long-term care consists of services to assist an impaired person with daily living activities. These professional services are provided to the individual until they pass away. However, long-term care requires an extreme and varied amount of investments. Economists suggest new dimensions to the resource allocation pattern in reforming the long-term care system; financing and provision, according to Prof. Yuen.


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