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Brain damage due to cosmic rays





SonLight
A recent paper in the journal Nature reports substantial mental impairment in rats 12 and 24 weeks after exposure to radiation similar to cosmic rays which astronauts flying to Mars will inevitably be exposed to.

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/trip-to-mars-could-cause-dementia-in-astronauts-study-1472685

Quote:
WASHINGTON: Astronauts travelling to Mars might be at risk of long-term brain damage and even dementia due to galactic cosmic ray exposure, said a new study.

To explore a phenomenon called "space brain," researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) exposed rodents to highly energetic charged particles -- fully ionized oxygen and titanium -- at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at New York's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

These particles are much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, which is part of NASA's Human Research Program.


ps. Interestingly, the news article I chose to quote references Xinhua news agency for an American story, and a journal other than Nature. I read some of the Nature article, possibly NASA interpreted the results of the Nature study.
kelseymh
SonLight wrote:
A recent paper in the journal Nature reports substantial mental impairment in rats 12 and 24 weeks after exposure to radiation similar to cosmic rays which astronauts flying to Mars will inevitably be exposed to.

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/trip-to-mars-could-cause-dementia-in-astronauts-study-1472685
[...]
ps. Interestingly, the news article I chose to quote references Xinhua news agency for an American story, and a journal other than Nature. I read some of the Nature article, possibly NASA interpreted the results of the Nature study.


Scientific Reports is owned by Nature Publishing Group. Here's the actual article: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep34774 . Why the NDTV article cited Xinhua is a mystery, except that (thanks to the International Dateline!) they or Japan's NHK are most likely to be first after an embargo period ends.
SonLight
Ok, thanks for clarifying. So I did read the right paper, and there is only one.

I assume ISS occupants are exposed to only a fraction of the rays that deep space astronauts would receive, so it will be difficult to get corresponding data for humans. If any high-orbit human missions do take place, I assume there will be testing for any sign of similar symptoms, and that long-term high-orbit human missions will not take place unless there is confidence that damage can be limited.

ps. It's good to have you checking science-based posts, but also a little scary. I didn't fully understand your comments about my gravity wave post, so I decided it was better to be thought a fool than to open my mouth and confirm it.
kelseymh
SonLight wrote:
I assume ISS occupants are exposed to only a fraction of the rays that deep space astronauts would receive, so it will be difficult to get corresponding data for humans.


That is an interesting question, one which Google Scholar ought to be able to give an answer to. From the physics, I would expect the ISS occupants to receive a roughly comparable radiation dose (high energy CRs make it through the Earth's magnetic field, while low energy ones get bent away).

The thing is, this is a brand new (or at least, newly published!) study, so it's unlikely that any prospective studies on current astronauts have been done. It would not surprise me if the publication spurs proposals for retrospective studies, but the cohort is relatively small.

Quote:
ps. It's good to have you checking science-based posts, but also a little scary. I didn't fully understand your comments about my gravity wave post, so I decided it was better to be thought a fool than to open my mouth and confirm it.


I thought you did a fine job with your followups to the GW announcement (and I didn't comment there). I am sorry if I was unclear in my reply to your question about Keplerian orbits in ~equal mass systems (e.g., binary pulsars).
SonLight
See how confused I am? I even forgot it was the Keplerian orbit problem I was confused about. If you're interested enough to check the stackexchange post it's based on, you might see the where the confusion came from. Clearly Kepler's "laws" are approximations, quite accurate provided the sun is much more massive than any planet.

Let me propose a correction for non-negligible planet mass, and you can tell me if you think it's potentially a step in the right direction or if I'm wrong. For each planet except Jupiter, it is clear that saying they orbited the center of mass of the Sun plus Jupiter would yield a more precise version of Kepler's laws. So far, I don't think there is any argument that the result is improved. The next step, I'm not sure, because this seems to be where the confusion came in, but I propose that if we say the Earth orbits a barycenter which is the center of mass of the Sun plus all other planets except Earth, that would give us a modified Kepler's law which would be as accurate as can be calculated unless you do a more general multi-body orbit calculation. Whether you would want to call it Kepler's law at that point I'm not sure, but the formula and result are clearly closer to reality and of the same form.
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