Q&A

Have any questions about science you want answered by an expert? Send us your questions and we will get them to the right person, who will respond as quickly as they can. The sky is the limit!

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
— Thomas Berger

The answer is actually no. Sea ice melting doesn’t make sea level rise any more than melting ice cubes in your water glass make the glass overflow. The melting of land-based ice, though, such as the ice in glaciers, ice sheets and locked up in permafrost, does cause sea level to rise, and this is the root of the problem we are facing now.

In addition, as water melts and gets warmer, it expands, causing a further increase in sea level. This sea level rise due to ice melt and thermal expansion in the coming years will significantly impact people living in coastal cities, and should not be understated.

-Jason Baer

Does melting sea ice cause sea level to rise?


Are the bees dying at an alarming rate?

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences reported that the population of bees in the U.S. declined by 23% between 2008 and 2013.

By all reasonable standards, I would say that drastic of a decline warrants the sounding of alarms, especially given that over 3 billion dollars of our economy stems from resources dependents on bees and other pollinators. Something to keep in mind.

-Daniel Patrick Chapman

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According to the CDC, the flu vaccine’s annual effectiveness is between 40-60%. The influenza vaccine, like all vaccines, introduces parts of the physical substrate of the virus to the body, effectively training your immune system to recognize the patterns present on the coat of the flu virus. The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on many factors including the strength of the persons immune system and the subtype of flu being circulated (the vaccine is most effective against Influenza B).

Think of it like playing “Where’s Waldo,” where Waldo is the flu virus. In this case, however, Waldo is wearing a different patterned shirt every year and workers at the CDC attempt to predict what shirt Waldo will be wearing every year so they can show it to your immune system and allow it to recognize the virus right away. However, predicting what shirt he’s (the virus) going to wear is not an easy task. Further, there are also often multiple flu viruses with multiple shirts circulating in any given year.

-Daniel Patrick Chapman

Why is the flu vaccine not 100% successful every year?


Are fossil fuels really running out?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, are not inexhaustible.

Current estimates suggest we have about 50 years worth of extractable oil and natural gas left on earth, and close to 100 years of coal, assuming we continue use these fuels at our current rate. This may sound like a lot of time. However, with climate change becoming a critical global issue, we may have to leave many of these reserves untouched to avoid a major environmental collapse, which is predicted to occur when global average temperatures increase by 2°C. We are not far away. It was agreed on at the UN Paris Agreement that avoiding this threshold should be a priority for all nations.

-Jason Baer

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A recent case study published in Nature reports the second case ever of complete HIV remission following a stem cell transplant for treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This report comes around 10 years after the famous “Berlin Patient,” Timothy Brown, who was the first ever case of complete HIV remission reported in the New England Journal of Medicine of complete HIV remission following similar treatment for Leukemia. Timothy Brown underwent similar stem cell therapy as the most recent patient, except he was being treated for a form of leukemia.

At this point, it is unclear why these two patients receiving similar treatments have been cured of HIV and it’s too early to tell whether or not this will yield results for all patients. However, it does provide a promising avenue of research for continuing the search for a definitive cure to one of mother nature’s deadliest viruses.

-Daniel Patrick Chapman

I heard in the news that HIV was cured in some patient from london. Could this be a cure for other patients too?