ICYMI: This Week’s Science News (4/21/17)


By Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)
The world is constantly changing because of developments in science and technology. Every week is an adventure for the realm of research! So ICYMI, here’s some of the science news from the last week!

Letting ladies lead!

Since 1978, all of Germany’s 11 astronauts have been male. However, a group is now trying to raise over $50 million to send their first woman to the International Space Station by 2020. Two finalists have been selected out of an initial pool of 400 applicants. Fight pilot Nicola Baumann and meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich were announced as the finalists this week and will begin training. At a later date the astronaut will be selected with the other remaining as the back-up, if necessary.
Way to go, ladies!

Santa, all I want for Christmas is another habitable planet. Love, NASA

Super-Earth Gliese 1132b was found this month to have an atmosphere. That’s a great sign for finding some kind of life on another planet. However, it’s not the only new planet which might be a viable option. LHS 1140b has been found about 40 light years away from Earth living within a habitable orbit around a red dwarf star. The super-Earth, with about 7 times the density of Earth and 1.4 times the size, looks to receive about half the amount of sunlight that our own Earth receives from the sun. All of these factors make it a favorable option to find extra-terrestrial life, and scientists will be spending the next few years studying the exoplanet to test their hypothesis about its habitability. Good luck, researchers!

Here, sniff this!

The blood-brain barrier is a great defense of the brain against toxins. However, it also keeps out a lot of medications that could be helpful for the brain. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a nasal spray using gold nanoparticles that gets to the brain through the olfactory bulb and right into the olfactory cortex. They have tested the spray on locusts, whose olfactory networks and blood-brain barriers are similar to those of humans.
The team hopes to try different medicines attached to the nanoparticles, and then to extend the research beyond insects to humans. If successful, it would be a great leap forward in medication administration.

Save the mice. Donate blood.

The fight against aging and particularly neurodegenerative diseases continues, with many studies going on around mice. A new study has shown that mice whose brains are injected with proteins derived from blood in umbilical cords has helped to regenerate their cognitive and memory abilities.
Blood plasma from young adults had some positive effects and blood from older adults had no effect in the mice at all. It appears that something in the proteins from the blood of umbilical cords encourages plasticity in the hippocampal region. The test has not been conducted in humans just yet, so we can’t be sure of similar results. However, Stanford is currently conducting a study using under-30s blood on Alzheimer’s patients, so we’ll have to wait and see!

Wait, are you my mummy? Or are YOU my mummy?

Archaeologists working with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities doing excavations at a site in Luxor uncovered a funerary complex with multiple tombs containing several mummies (and more than 1,000 figurines). The complex was believed to have belonged to a judge named Userhat. Excavations will continue and the team will try to uncover the entire complex eventually.

First imaginary numbers, now negative mass?

Researchers at Washington State University have used lasers to cool atoms to almost absolute zero. By doing this, the particles’ movement slows and begin to follow the rules of quantum mechanics instead of the typical classical physics. The particles act like waves, moving in unison, becoming a superfluid. They contained the particles/superfluid, and everything acted normally. However, when they forced the superfluid to escape the container, it began to act as if it had negative mass! (Imagine pushing something and it goes the opposite direction!)
If things continue to work out, studying the negative mass superfluid could help researchers learn more about other mysteries of physics, such as dark matter, black holes, and neutron stars. And it also succeeds in blowing our minds!

My! How many teeth you have!

Sorting through specimen jars in the Western Australian Museum led Conway and Glenn Moore to uncover a new species of clingfish, from 1977. That’s right, the fish was caught in 1977, and sat around waiting for a look. Once it got its look, 40 years later, it was found to be a new species, with about 1800 teeth, a duck-bill like face, and a suction cup on its belly. The Netterhamphos radula was confirmed as a new species of clingfish because it has about 10 times more teeth than its counterparts, and a wider upper jaw.
No one has seen one in the wild just yet, but now that we know it exists, researchers might have something to look for!

Whew! That was close! Almost had to call Bruce Willis!

An asteroid, 2014 JO, (nicknamed “The Rock”) shot past Earth on Wednesday night. About 2,000 feet in length, the asteroid discovered in 2014 passed Earth with 1.1 million miles to spare. (We didn’t have to call on any drilling experts to fly up and take care of it!) While plenty of smaller asteroids fly by each week, this is the first time since 2004 that such a large asteroid has come so close. With a surface twice as reflective as the Moon, it should have been easy to spot using small optical telescopes.
Did you see “The Rock” fly by?

Don’t go kissing frogs just yet.

In a study published this week, research from Emory University School of Medicine shows that a particular chemical found in the mucus of South Indian frogs might be a tool in the fight against the flu. The team used a synthesized version of the molecule in mice and found that it killed several kinds of influenza viruses.
The compound doesn’t last long in the body, so scientists will be working on finding a way to stabilize it, but doors have been opened in animal studies to create new disease-fighting compounds.

The “unicorn of the mollusk” world has been found!

For years, scientists have been studying the external shells of giant shipworms, but they have never had the opportunity to study the creature living inside. Eluding them for centuries, the bivalve mollusk has been called the “unicorn” of aquatic mollusks. After getting a tip from a Philippine documentary, the team finally found a live specimen! The creatures can grow to 3 feet long and live surrounded by shells of their own making, buried beneath mud, living off the hydrogen sulphide gas produced by that mud.
There’s a lot still unknown about the creatures, but with an idea of where to find more live specimens, it looks like we just might find out more!

Well, that’s a surprise!

Greenland’s Petermann Glacier has a mysterious new crack forming, and no one saw it coming. What’s so surprising is that no one is quite sure how the crack came to be, or why it is in the middle of the glacier (instead of cracks which normally originate at the glacier’s edges). The crack is concerning, as it appears to be evidence that the ice shelf is thinning at its middle and becoming unstable. In addition, the crack looks to be heading toward an older crack, and if the two meet, a giant iceberg might break off. There are some mitigating factors, but scientists will now be watching the crack closely to see what happens next!

I count seals for fun.

Last week an Australian mechanic and amateur star-gazer helped find exoplanets through a volunteer program involving image viewing. You can do the same for seals! Last summer, a pilot program was launched in which researchers received help from 5,000 volunteers in counting seals on sea ice in Ross Sea. Now, they want to expand their efforts to the entire continent of Antarctica. They want to learn more about where seals live, why they live there, and how they might be affected by factors such as fishing and global climate changes. They have satellite images of the entire continent, but simply don’t have the manpower to look at all the images themselves, so they are sending out a call for help!
Interested? Go to the website and get started! http://www.tomnod.com/campaign/antarctica_pilot_2/map/10dvx1hy10

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