ICYMI: Weekly Science News (10/30/17)


By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

The world of science and technology is always changing, with news coming out each week that sometimes defy imagination. Perhaps you weren’t paying attention or just missed the science news. No matter the reason, we’ve got you covered! So ICYMI, here’s a taste of some science stories from the last week!

Move over, Arnold. Sophia’s here.

The robot takeover begins not with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with Sophia – a humanoid robot who has just been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. The event marks the first country to grant citizenship to a robotic entity. During a live demonstration of Sophia in March 2016, Sophia had some unpleasant ideas about the fate of humanity, but at the recent Future Investment Initiative event last week, Sophia has shown a change of heart, with thoughts in-line with humanity’s hopes for a better robot-oriented future. Sophia and similar androids have a future in helping seniors in facilities or visitors to parks or events.

Meanwhile, with women Saudi Arabia still suffering from constant gender discrimination, the granting of citizenship to a female-likened robot should introduce some interesting ethical questions.

Hooked on Phonics can’t help with this…

A new study published in NeuroImage Clinical has found a potential predictor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease. An extremely prevalent symptom of the neurodegenerative disease is a decline in language processing. But little research has been done on the decline of language between the disease’s initial symptoms and it’s full development. Researchers at the University of Birmingham, UK, have begun to do just that – in an attempt to find predictors that require no invasive testing techniques. Participants took part in a language comprehension task while an electroencephalogram measured the electrical activity in their brains. The researchers found a difference in the brain response between those who will likely develop Alzheimer’s Disease and those who won’t. There is still lots of research to be done to expand on this small initial study, but the team is hopeful further tests will reveal important information!

Spectacular Secrets of Siberia

When a mysterious ball of light appears in the sky, theories abound. Aliens? Wormholes? Time traveling orbs? Residents of the northern reaches of Russia saw a great ball of the light in the night sky, with a gorgeous Northern Lights background to highlight it. But the cause wasn’t otherworldly. The prevailing theory is that the crazy moving orb was caused by the launches of ballistic missiles by the government flying from one end of the country to the other. Night rocket launches have created sky illusions more than once, and the Russian missile launches were no exception. Certain lights and atmospheric conditions in combination with the power of the rocket may have created odd tricks of light and a spectacular display for residents of Russia to enjoy!

Jurassic Park: India

Paleontologists in India have unearthed a priceless find in the village of Lodai in the Gujarat region. Likely dating from 145-161 million years ago in the Jurassic era, the nearly complete skeleton of an Ichthyosaur is an incredible find! Almost 18 feet long, the fossil is the first Jurassic-era ichthyosaur to be uncovered in India. The new discovery may shed light on the evolution and movement of the species in that region. It looks like there’s lots to learn about the water-dwelling dinosaur!

Bacon Goes Lean with Genetic Engineering

Farmers may struggle with the heating and feeding bills when raising pigs. And if you like your morning bacon, you know those bills reflect your costs at the grocery store as well. New gene-editing research on pigs may eventually help reduce the cost. Scientists in the U.K. and China used CRISPR to genetically modify 12 piglets to be 25% less fat than their normal counterparts. Not only were the modified pigs leaner, they were also given a mouse gene to help regulate internal temperature. If results can be replicated with ethical and safety concerns resolved, it could mean improvements for pig welfare and reducing economic losses. Will the new low-fat pork ever become available in American supermarkets? Only time will tell.

Could your sushi soon be made with sea rice?

Rice is a staple food in many countries, including China. Unfortunately, there is plenty of untapped countryside in China because the water and soil contain too much salt and alkaline. A few wild rice species can grow, but that often involves more work than it’s worth to produce. Chinese scientists have developed a new strain of rice that can be grown in salty water with a higher yield. In fact, six tons of the new rice have already been sold, and with further commercialization, the amount of rice grown and sold could increase and feed millions! You could soon be buying delicious sea rice yourself!

We didn’t forget Flipper. Flipper forgot.

While Alzheimer’s Disease strikes humans, robbing them of their memories and ability to care for themselves, it seems that the disease has spread to another species as well: dolphins. Some dolphins who died of natural causes and were recovered on the beaches of Spain were recently found to have the tell-tale protein plaque and tangles seen in humans who suffer from the disease. Seeing these issues in the brains of wild animals for the first time is bad news for the dolphins, but may be a new opportunity for scientists to study the disease, its origins, and its development. Sorry, Flipper!

Ovarian Cancer is Down the Tubes

Ovarian cancer is a cancer that is not often caught early, frequently in later stages of development by the time it is found. Part of the reason may be that the cancer isn’t actually originating in the ovaries. A very small research study (with only nine participants) based on tissue samples has provided evidence that ovarian cancer actually may originate in the fallopian tubes (found between the ovaries and the uterus). If the small study is substantiated with further research, the discovery could revolutionize detection and treatment of the deadly cancer. Sounds like a potentially brighter future, doesn’t it?

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