The best way to sneeze

Of all the involuntary actions carried out by the human body, nothing rivals the sneeze. A sneeze occurs in three stages. First, your head moves up and back as you take a sudden breath. (This is the “ah” part of the sneeze.) Second, you pause for a moment after your lungs fill with air. Third, your head moves forward and down as you contract the muscles in your chest, throat and abdomen. (This is the “choo” part of the sneeze.) In the process, you expel air and tiny droplets out of your nose and mouth at about 100 miles per hour. This is faster than a cheetah chasing down a gazelle on the African savanna.

The human body has thousands of nerves that help it interact with the world around it. Pain nerves in your feet let you know if you step on something that could hurt you. Nerves that are sensitive to temperature remind you to put on a jacket if it’s cold outside. Stretching nerves let you know if your bladder is full so you can find a bathroom — or a tree, depending on where you are.

The nose and sinus cavities are lined with small hairs, mucus-producing glands and hairlike microscopic structures called cilia. Hairs and nasal mucus trap dust, mold and germs. Cilia beat slowly to move foreign matter to your throat, where it can be swallowed. (The acid in your stomach destroys most of the viruses and bacteria that get swallowed throughout the day.)

Sneezing is a complicated reflex that’s designed to remove irritants from your nose and sinuses. When something “tickles” or irritates the nerves in your nasal passages, a signal is sent to the sneeze center in your brain. Your brain responds to this signal by orchestrating all of the muscular actions that are required for a sneeze to be effective. (Eye muscles aren’t needed, but you may have noticed that it’s impossible to sneeze without closing your eyes.)

The most common things that cause sneezing are colds and allergies. Other triggers include smoke, strong smells and animal dander (dead skin cells). Some people sneeze when they are exposed to light. This is called photic sneezing.

You should always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. If you forget, your mom or dad will remind you to do so. It’s important to cover up because an unchecked sneeze will spread germs all over the place. It would also be pretty embarrassing if you ended up with a big glob of snot on your upper lip.

The worst sneeze is the one that can’t decide if it needs to come out or not. I don’t know why this happens, but when it does, you get stuck between the “ah” and the “choo.” Sometimes a person can be stuck in “sneeze limbo” for minutes before the feeling goes away or you finally let one rip.

If you try holding back a sneeze by pinching your nostrils, your brain won’t explode. However, you may end up forcing air through your eustachian tube into the space behind your eardrum. This can really hurt, so unless you’re worried about a zombie finding you, never try to stop a sneeze!

Videos: http://youtu.be/cQOSh6GLa_w, http://youtu.be/FzRH3iTQPrk and http://youtu.be/xxbBPu-Vp7g
Reported by HOWARD J. BENNETT of the Washington Post. Bennett is a Washington pediatrician.

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This little cup costs $36M, and it doesn’t even come with a milkshake

The Meiyintang “Chicken Cup” from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was sold for $36.1 million at a recent auction. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The Meiyintang “Chicken Cup” from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was sold for $36.1 million at a recent auction. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A collector from Shanghai, China, bought a rare Ming Dynasty cup for $36 million at an auction last week.

Yep, you read that right: 36 million bucks for a tiny little cup and it doesn’t even come with a lid and straw.

Even worse, it has chickens on it.

The sale, which was held in Hong Kong, smashed the previous world record price for Chinese porcelain.

The small white cup, which measures just 3.1 Inches in diameter — to small to hold the entire contents of a carton of milk from a school cafeteria — and is more than 500 years old. The vessel is known as a “Chicken Cup” because it’s decorated with a rooster and hen tending to their chicks.

The Chicken Cup was made during the reign of the Ming Dynasty’s Chenghua Emperor, who ruled from 1465 to 1487. Sotheby’s, the auction house where it was sold, said there are only 17 such cups in existence, with four in private hands and the rest in museums.

“There’s no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain,” said Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for Asia. “This is really the holy grail when it comes to Chinese art.”

Sotheby’s said the previous record for Chinese porcelain was set in 2010 when a gourd-shaped Qianlong vase sold for $32.4 million.

Liu Yiqian, the winning bidder, is a middle-school dropout who drove a cab before becoming a multimillionaire. Forbes estimates his fortune at $900 million, making him the 200th richest person in China.


Reported by KELVIN CHAN of the Associated Press from HONG KONG.

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Can you stay up late to see an eclipse?

The different stages of the moon during a lunar eclipse are seen from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. On Tuesday morning, April 15, 2014, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow and will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The different stages of the moon during a lunar eclipse are seen from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. On Tuesday morning, April 15, 2014, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow and will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Hey, kids of North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year, but you’ll have to get up really early or stay up really late.

Next Tuesday morning (April 15), the moon will be eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere, which includes all of North America. The total shadowed phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. and ending at 4:24 a.m..

Even though the moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it should appear a bit colorful, some shade of red or orange. That’s from light around the edges of the Earth — essentially sunrises and sunsets — splashing on the lunar surface and faintly lighting up the moon, said Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.

On April 29, the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a rare type of solar eclipse.

In all, four eclipses will occur this year, two lunar and two solar.

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Online:

NASA: http://1.usa.gov/NFJLGE

Reported by MARCIA DUNN of the Associated Press from CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.

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Tetris goes big time

Ever wish you could play a video game on a really, really big TV screen? That’s just what happened Saturday night in Philadelphia when a group of tech fanatics played the classic video game Tetris on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre building.

The classic video game Tetris is played on the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia, Saturday, April 5, 2014, using hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade. The spectacle kicks off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week and also celebrates the upcoming 30th anniversary of Tetris. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

The classic video game Tetris is played on the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia, Saturday, April 5, 2014, using hundreds of LED lights embedded in its glass facade. The spectacle kicks off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week and also celebrates the upcoming 30th anniversary of Tetris. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

The skyscraper, which has hundreds of LED lights embedded in the building’s glass facade, usually is used to display colorful patterns at night, but on Saturday it was connected to a computer that allowed people to interact with the lights and play the game.

“It has been probably 15 years since I played Tetris last on a Game Boy, and it’s much different playing on the side of building that’s a half-mile away,” the city resident Sam Robinson said. “Everything’s happening so quick.”

It wasn’t the first time Tetris has been played on a building. But the 100,000-square-foot “screen” — which includes the north and south faces of the structure — could be a record.

The spectacle kicked off a citywide series of events called Philly Tech Week. It also celebrated the upcoming 30th anniversary of a game revered as the epitome of elegance and simplicity, said Frank Lee, an associate professor of digital media at Drexel University.

Tetris, created by Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, challenges players to rotate and arrange falling shapes into complete rows.

It became a global phenomenon in the late 1980s after game designer Henk Rogers, who had seen Tetris at a trade show in Las Vegas, acquired the rights and struck a deal to put it on Nintendo’s original Game Boy.

Reported by KATHY MATHESON of the Associated Press from PHILADELPHIA, Pa.

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Students represent their school district at convention

Marissa Freed, a 5th grader from Dillsburg Elementary School’s K-Kids, and Olivia Keyser and Caitlin Tern from Northern Middle School Builders Club represented Northern York County School District at the Circle K convention in Hershey March 29. The girls each gave a speech at the Kiwanis family breakfast to a room filled with Circle K members and Kiwanis dignitaries. Pennsylvania Kiwanis Governor, Mark Mishinski, stated that the future of Kiwanis and service in our community is in good hands with young people like these girls.

 

 

Circle K1

Shown from left, Marissa Freed, 5th grade K-Kid at Dillsburg; Elissa Hill, Governor of Key Club; Caitlyn Tern, member of NMS  Builders Club; Mark Mishinski, Kiwanis Governor; Olivia Keyser, member of NMS Builders Club; and Katie Auwaerter, Governor of Circle K.

 

 

 

Circle K2

From left, Emily Reed, Marissa Freed, Pat Franko, Dillsburg Elementary Principal.

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Firefighter rescues 7-foot boa constrictor from burning home

Firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach holds a boa constrictor after rescuing it from a burning home in Muskegon, Mich., on Sunday, March 30, 2014.  (AP Photo/Courtesy of Gordon Cole)

Firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach holds a boa constrictor after rescuing it from a burning home in Muskegon, Mich., on Sunday, March 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Gordon Cole)

If you were a snake and your house was on fire, what would you do? Try to get out, right?

A Michighan firefighter found out just what happens, and he put his past reptile-handling experience to good use when he rescued a 7-foot-long boa constrictor from a burning home.

Muskegon firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach told The Muskegon Chronicle that he reluctantly agreed to enter the two-story, smoke-filled house Sunday night to retrieve the snake. He says he cradled the “weighty” snake before carrying it to safety.

“It was trying to crawl up the side of his terrarium and get out,” Hemmelsbach said. “His face was pushed up on the screen and trying to get out. There was a lot of smoke and he was trapped.”

The firefighter said he learned how to handle snakes while he was at high school.

“I’d take them around and show them to the kids in the elementary classes,” he said. “That didn’t bother me at all.”

When Hemmelsbach reached the boa inside the home, he gingerly handled him so not to scare the reptile.

“I removed the screen off the top and knew to approach it by coming up behind his head. He became very active, and I was glad because that meant that he was OK.”

Two people in the home escaped without injury, fire officials said. The fire significantly damaged the home, and the cause is under investigation.

“I would do it for any creature,” Hemmelsbach said. “I’m just glad it had a happy ending.”

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Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon

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U.S. creates library of dirt

A student at North Carolina State University collects soil in Southern California. The federal government sent students and scientists to more than 4,800 places across the nation to collect soil that was analyzed for its composition. The results are now highly sought after by researchers in a wide variety of fields. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)

A student at North Carolina State University collects soil in Southern California. The federal government sent students and scientists to more than 4,800 places across the nation to collect soil that was analyzed for its composition. The results are now highly sought after by researchers in a wide variety of fields. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)

The government has been collecting dirt — lots of it.

Clumps came from the Texas Panhandle, a shady grove in West Virginia, a picked-over corn field in Kansas and thousands of other places in the lower 48 states.

A small army of researchers and university students lugging pick axes and shovels scattered across the country for three years to scoop samples into plastic bags from nearly 5,000 places. They marked the GPS coordinates, took photos and labeled each bag before mailing them back to the government’s laboratory in Denver.

Though always underfoot and often overlooked, dirt actually has a lot to tell. Scientists say information from it could help farmers grow better vegetables and build a better understanding of climate change.

David Smith, who launched the U.S. Geological Survey project in 2001, said the data available from the samples will feed research for a century, and he’s sharing it with anyone who wants it. “The more eyes and brains that look at it, the better,” Smith said.

Old info: The idea for the massive research project came in the late 1990s, when Smith was in charge of handing out the government’s store of soil data — what little there was. The old archive held information collected in the 1960s and 1970s, and based on outdated science. Just about every researcher returned with the same disappointment, saying: “There must be more.”

Smith told them that, sadly, no, there wasn’t.

So he took action. During the next several years, Smith and his fellow geologists refined a plan for collecting and documenting the makeup of the nation’s soil.

Digging started in 2007 and wasn’t done until 2010. They strategically sunk their shovels at a spot in every 600 square miles in the continental United States. At each locale they took three samples. They had rules to follow as well — they had to start at the surface and going no deeper than three feet.

Reactions: Before retiring, U.S. Geological Survey geologist Jim Kilburn trained many of the 40 surveyors and went into the field himself several times for up to a month. He sent back hundreds of samples on the road from Nebraska down to Texas and from Kansas west to the California coast.

Only once was Kilburn told to go away. A rancher near Sacramento, Calif., had let government researchers onto his pastures before, where they found a rare clover and told him he could no longer graze cattle there.

“No matter what I told the guy, he wasn’t going to let me on,” Kilburn said. “He had good reason.”

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Contact David Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey at dsmith@usgs.gov, or access his soil survey at http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/801/.

Reported by SCOTT SMITH of the Associated Press from FRESNO, Calif

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