Never heard of Cecelia Payne, the woman who literally discovered what the universe is made of? You're not alone.

We probably wouldn't have The Beatles without Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. And we wouldn't have rock and roll as we know it without The Beatles. If you agree with the school of thought that we build off the accomplishments of our predecessors, then Cecelia Payne is as rock and roll as they come.

In a Facebook post making the rounds again after the original went viral two years ago, Cecelia Payne is once again having a light shined on her accomplishments. And yet, it still doesn't seem close to what she deserves.





Born in 1900 in Wendover, England, Cecelia was always fascinated by the stars. According to Harvard Magazine, when in high school she actually approached a local bookbinder in London to put a fake cover that read "Holy Bible" on the book she was supposed to be studying so she could pursue her true passion, which was science. Her silent defiance would eventually get her kicked out of school. After being accepted at the St. Paul School for Girls, she recalls walking through the doors and thinking to herself "I shall never be lonely again. Now I can think about science!" In 1919 she was awarded a scholarship to Cambridge University, which had only recently started to accept women. And while they accepted women, they were a far cry from taking them seriously in the field Cecelia uncontrollably passionate about.

One night, after hearing Arthur Eddington, head of the Cambridge Observatory, give a lecture regarding Einstein's theory of relativity, Payne raced back to her dorm. She thought, "For three nights, I think, I did not sleep. My world had been so shaken that I experienced something like a nervous breakdown." And if nervous breakdowns get you into Harvard, then we should all start taking crazy pills, because that is where she would continue her studies.

During her tenure at Harvard, astronomers were trying to answer the riddle that had evaded them and everyone before them: what are stars made of? As they were staring at the stars, befuddled as they looked through their high tech telescopes, Cecelia Payne figured it out. Using a jeweler's loupe.

What she discovered was that hydrogen was a million times more present in the universe than anyone had realized. When she presented her thesis, the famous Russian-American astronomer Otto Struve called it "the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy." Henry Norris Russell, dean of American astronomers and head of the Princeton Observatory did not agree.

In response to Payne's book Stellar Atmospheres, Russell called her hypotheses "clearly impossible" and that her results were "almost certainly not real." Four years later, after using his own methods, Russell came to the same conclusion as Payne's original idea. He then took the credit giving her an unceremonious honorable mention. Heaven forbid he said, "She was right and I was wrong." It is kind of like reading someone's book idea and saying there is no way that would work, and then coming up with that same book idea four years later and calling it brilliant.

Cecelia Payne, you were way ahead of your time. You are the Nina Simone of astronomy.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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