If you don't look closely at these paintings, you might miss the science in disguise.

Jill Pelto's world is made up a rich blues, ochres, and a sky that looks like something out of an old mariner's chart.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

It's a beautiful piece of art. But when you start to look closer, little details start to pop out. You notice a number here or there. Or a series of points marching down the top of a glacier. Or ... is that an x-axis?


Wait, are all of these charts?! This is data! Wooah!

The artwork, you see, isn't just beautiful. While each piece starts as a simple line graph of mass or temperature, Pelto — a graduate student at the University of Maine — transforms them into something more.

Pelto has spent the past few years creating this astounding series of paintings, all based on scientific data.

She was first inspired by a research trip back in 2015.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Since she was 16, Pelto's been going on research trips with her father, glaciologist Mauri Pelto. In 2015, she joined her father in the field to study the glaciers in Washington state's North Cascade National Park.

On the trip, Pelto saw how the glaciers, while beautiful, had also lost much of their mass. Inspired, saddened, and packing her watercolors, Pelto decided to try to use her art to communicate what she was seeing.

The mass of glaciers in the North Cascades from 1980 to 2014. Data available here. Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Since then, Pelto has continued the project, turning not just glacial mass but many other variables into brilliant works of art.

Within the deep purples and reds of a forest on fire hides a global temperatures trend.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Global temperature data, obtained from Climate Central, becomes the backdrop to an incredible forest fire. Rising temperatures and drought conditions could increase the future risk of forest fires.

Aquamarine-colored salmon intertwine with waves made from their population numbers.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

Washington state has been hit by a number of droughts in the last few decades. Many rivers run low, affecting the coho salmon that spawn there.

Lifelike Arctic foxes hide amid a line graph that shows dwindling ice sheets.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

The graph tracks the loss of Arctic sea ice from 1980 to the present. Arctic foxes are well-equipped to survive the chilly polar weather, but as the poles get warmer, larger species may invade and outcompete them.

This beautiful swaying reef exists in an increasingly acidic ocean.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

As more carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere, the ocean is slowly becoming more acidic. Many species could be affected, including clownfish.

A tiger struggles against it's shrinking jungle habitat.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

This line graph is based on the decline in tiger habit area from 1970 to 2010.

Here, four different trends combine into a complex, ethereal landscape.

Image from Jill Pelto, used with permission.

In this piece, called "Landscape of Change," Pelto combined data on sea levels, glacial decline, temperatures, and fossil fuel usage.

Pelto plans to continue painting once she completes her master's degree.

Science is an important tool for understanding our changing world, but even the most passionate scientist will admit it can be pretty dry at times. Getting people excited about trend lines or statistical analyses is no easy feat.

But art touches us on an emotional level. We get art. Seeing something that can combine the two disciplines, and hopefully inspire something inside us, is pretty dang cool.

You can see more of Pelto's artwork at her website.

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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