ICYMI: This Week’s Science News (4/14/17)


By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

News from space. News from archaeology. News from the animal kingdom. Lots of stories to be told, so ICYMI, here’s some of the science news from the last week!

NASA has an announcement!

NASA researchers with the Cassini mission to Saturn have found a form of chemical energy from hydrogen gas on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, that forms of life could potentially feed on. While finding this evidence in plumes on Enceladus, they were led to similar plumes on another moon, Europa (a moon of Jupiter). The newly-imaged plume on Europa is above a thermal spot, and if linked, might provide evidence that water is being vented from under the moon’s icy surface.

Scientists are looking for evidence of the ingredients necessary to support some form of life outside of our own unique planet, and this might be the further evidence they need, found within our own solar system!

Just in time for The Mummy…

A new pyramid discovery was announced this week, found about 24 miles south of Cairo. Thus far, they have only been able to explore inner passages of the pyramid, but they hope to soon be able to determine the size of the pyramid. What they have found so far is reportedly in good condition, so they are excited about what further excavations will reveal.

There was a story here, but I forget…

In 2015, a new study showed the benefits of ultrasound bursts to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice. Further research has now found that the ultrasound therapy in combination with immunotherapy might be even more effective. Long story short, the ultrasound method helps introduced antibodies get through the blood-brain barrier and treat symptoms. While the studies have only been performed on mice, if the results can be replicated in humans, it could be a promising new way to treat neurological diseases!

Just breathe!

For the first time, an Earth-like planet has been found to have an atmosphere. While atmospheres have been found on other planets, they have all been significantly larger or different than this planet, called Gliese 1132b, which has a radius and mass comparable to Earth’s.

However, the temperature of the planet is not conducive to human life, so don’t go packing for the colony just yet. Nevertheless, it is of interest to scientists because it could be an ideal place for them to search for other kinds of extraterrestrial life.

Ucetia is not a pasta dish. It’s a town!

In the south of France, the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) has finally begun to uncover what they believe is remnants of the Roman town called Ucetia. The only previous evidence they had that the small city existed was because its name was on a stone slab. However, they began digging and found mosaics and evidence of buildings.

Further excavation is necessary, but it looks like Ucetia might be the next place to visit on your archaeological vacation!

Geckos have bigger worries than car insurance.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney showed that velvet geckos incubated in warmer temperatures appear to be slower learners than their counterparts incubated in current cooler temperatures. While that may not seem like a big deal, that learning speed difference might affect the geckos’ ability to find shelter, food, etc., and thereby influencing their potential future survival rates.

While the study was only on a single species, it does lead scientists to wonder about the future of various reptile species (and everything else in the food web) if the global warming trend continues.

You, too, can discover a planet…or four!

This week, Australian amateur stargazer and mechanic Andrew Grey discovered a new exoplanet system. After a special called ABC Stargazing Live, viewers were asked to contribute to the search by going through star data gathered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Gray participated, and found the patterns reflecting the existence of an exoplanet. Along with data from other discoverers, a report will be published about the star and its four exoplanets orbiting it. Way to go, citizens!

Antibiotics and the Brain: The Untold Story

A recent study on mice has found a potential link between antibiotic usage during pregnancy and childhood and behavior changes. Studying 12 pregnant mice, they gave the control group simple water, while giving two experimental groups either antibiotics only or antibiotics in combination with probiotics. They studied the offspring of the mice and found that those who had been given antibiotics had observable changes in their gut microbiota and increased cytokine expression in the brain, as well as blood-brain barrier alterations. This ultimately appears to lead to the mice showing impaired social and anxiety behaviors and increased aggression.

The study has only been conducted on mice, so we can’t be sure if human brains are the same, and further exploration of the long-term effects of antibiotics is also needed.

I’ll take crabs in a tree over snakes on a plane any day.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to crab news, they don’t all live on beaches. Some of them like to climb trees! In fact, India has been found to be home to a new species of crab, now called Kani maranjandu, after the Kani tribe in Kerala (south India) that helped the researchers in making the discovery. While there have been other species of crabs found to spend some time in the trees, this is the first that seems to rely solely on the tree, even getting its water found within tree trunks (as opposed to other species who get water from streams and pools). It looks like seafood isn’t always living in the sea!

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

A team of researchers working in the research program “Bush Blitz” in Australia went on a two week long expedition and possibly found over 50 new species of spider in a new area that had not been surveyed before. The 23-person team is still confirming that species found are new and not already classified, but it’s likely that most of them are fresh discoveries, as they were found in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, which is lovingly known to the scientists as “the spider capital of Australia.”

They have reportedly found jumping spiders, spiders that seem to “scuba dive,” and even spiders that are as big as dinner plates. If I can’t squish it with my shoe, it’s a monstrosity, not a spider. But hey, that’s just me! Meanwhile, the crazy people can continue their spider expeditions.

Why adopt a highway when you can adopt Earth?

In honor of the approaching Earth Day (April 22), NASA is offering virtual adoptions for 64,000 individual pieces of Earth. No, you won’t actually own that piece of the planet or be responsible for it. However, the efforts are to raise awareness for the planet and the dire condition it is racing toward. If you sign up, you’ll have the chance to learn about that section of the planet, with information like temperature, vegetation, and atmospheric data, all provided by NASA. I did it and got a piece off the coast of Greenland. There are no strings attached, so why not get a virtual adoption certificate for a piece of the world?

If you’re interested in adopting a piece of Earth (which may be all water) for yourself, click here to sign up!

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