Category Archives: Science

New electric spoon can zap tongue with extra flavour

spoon

Imagine if you could satisfy your sweet tooth without risking cavities or those few extra calories. This may sound too good to be true, but researchers in the United Arab Emirates have invented a spoon that can recreate flavours such as saltiness, sourness, bitterness, or sweetness, by using electricity – an invention that could be useful for those with dietary restrictions. Researchers at the New York University Abu Dhabi invented the ingenius utensil using a new technology known as a … Continue reading

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Astronomers solve puzzle about bizarre object at the center of our galaxy

For years, astronomers have been puzzled by a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galaxy’s enormous black hole. Having studied it during its closest approach to the black hole this summer, UCLA astronomers believe that they have solved the riddle of the object widely known as G2. A team led by Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy in the UCLA College, determined that G2 … Continue reading

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New research suggests you make better decisions when you’re hungry

You might think that it’s better to be well-fed rather than starving when you’re trying to make a big, life-changing decision, but new research suggests quite the opposite. ‘Hot states’ – a term used to describe a high level of emotion caused by something like hunger – actually improve your ability to make long-term decisions. Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands conducted three separate experiments on a group of students to test whether hunger led to advantageous strategic decision-making. … Continue reading

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Scientists use stem cells to grow tiny human stomachs

If you ever visit a doctor about some kind of persistent stomach problem, such as frequent bloating, cramps, or constipation, you’ll quickly discover just how mysterious the human stomach is, even to the experts. As you’re referred to an ultrasound machine, a nutritionist, and quite possibly another doctor, and asked to trial various diet changes and treatments over the course of several months, you’ll probably be wondering why there isn’t a better way. Maybe you have the very common gastrointestinal … Continue reading

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Newly explored regions of the human genome reveal fundamental processes of life

genome

Scientists have gained an insight into previously uncharted regions of the human genome, discovering the function of more than 250 genes involved in cell growth and development. Ten years ago, the human genome, often referred to by scientists as the ‘book of life’, was mapped and sequenced. This genetic blueprint was the culmination of years of research, yet we still do not fully understand the function of almost half these genes. In an effort to unravel the role of more … Continue reading

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Why doctors always whack you in the knee

Thanks to Phil Krause for advising us about the Mono-Synaptic Response. Why doctors always whack you in the knee? Yes, yes, reflexes. But why the knee? And what would it mean if your knee didn’t jerk. Find out why you are beaten with a rubber mallet as part of a medical check-up. There are plenty of tests doctors do that live in infamy; especially when it involves telling a patient to cough. Only one term has broken free of the … Continue reading

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Ambition

As Tomek Bagiński’s short film Ambition makes clear, it is the essence of what it means to be human, to attempt difficult things, to reach for seemingly impossible goals, to learn, adapt and evolve. And at the heart of this film is Rosetta, ESA’s real mission to rendezvous with, escort and land on a comet. A mission that began as a dream, but that after decades of planning, construction and flight through the Solar System, has arrived at its goal. … Continue reading

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Scientists have grown a functioning blood vessel in just seven days

Using just two tablespoons of blood, scientists have managed to grow a brand new blood vessel in a week – revolutionising the method used for creating new tissue with stem cells. Three years ago, a patient who was missing the vein that connects the gastrointestinal tract to the liver received a blood vessel transplant grown from their own stem cells. Shortly after this case, the pioneering transplant was performed again on two young children, but this time, the stem cells … Continue reading

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Figuring out how we get the nitrogen we need

Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2,, it is inert and useless to most organisms. Something has to convert, or “fix,” that nitrogen into a metabolically usable form, such as ammonia. Until about 100 years ago when an industrial-scale technique called the Haber-Bosch process was … Continue reading

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Now We Know What Makes White Dwarf Stars Go Supernova

What makes a dead star explode? Scientists have long suspected a mechanism for making a white dwarf go supernova, but they weren’t able to confirm it — until now. ESA recently trained its INTEGRAL observatory on an exploding supernova in the M82 galaxy, and were able to catch it in the act as it threw off gamma rays in its final death throes. The signature of those gamma rays, says ESA, are hard evidence of just how fusion is taking … Continue reading

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Sweet! A special cocoa drink may reverse memory loss

A special type of concentrated cocoa drink seems to turn back the clock on memory, changing the brain and helping middle-aged people ace memory tests, researchers reported on Sunday. Plant compounds called flavanols seem to be what does the trick, the team at Columbia University Medical Center report in the journal Nature Neuroscience. “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of … Continue reading

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Where Does the Smell of Rain Come From?

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How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

Adam Savage (you know the guy from Mythbusters) walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed — Eratosthenes’ calculation of the Earth’s circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau’s measurement of the speed of light in 1849.

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Scientists have opened the blood-brain barrier for the first time

For the first time in humans, researchers have managed to penetrate the brain’s protector, meaning that doctors will be able to deliver drugs to previously inaccessible parts of the brain. The blood-brain barrier is a network of cells that separates the brain from the rest of the body, preventing harmful toxins and chemicals in the blood stream from entering the brain tissue. This blocking mechanism makes it very difficult to deliver drugs to the brain for the treatment of neurodegenerative … Continue reading

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We now know why some people get SAD in the winter

Scientists say they have identified the underlying reason why some people are prone to the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal. As the nights draw in, production of a transporter protein ramps up in Sad, lowering available serotonin. The work will be presented this week at a neuropsychopharmacology conference. The University of Copenhagen researchers who carried out the … Continue reading

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Do you get your moons mixed up?

deskarati moons

I have lately been getting my moons mixed up! This is somewhat understandable for someone with only a poor knowledge of Greek Mythology and Shakespeare and not helped when three of them sound very similar. Titan, Titania and Triton. So as an aid memoir to me and any of you with a similar problem, I am posting this great graphic showing all the major moons alongside the Earth to help gauge the sizes. – Deskarati

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Brian Cox: Making Sense of the Cosmos

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Scientists build first map of hidden universe

A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the ‘adolescent’ Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from data collected from the W. M. Keck Observatory, is millions of light-years across and provides a tantalizing glimpse of large structures in the ‘cosmic web’ – the backbone of cosmic structure. On the largest scales, matter in the Universe is arranged in a vast network of … Continue reading

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The anatomy of love

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How Jetlag Disrupts The Ticks of Your Microbial Clock

Your genome is the same right now as it was yesterday, last week, last year, or the day you were born. But your microbiomes—the combined genes of all the trillions of microbes that share your body—have shifted since the sun came up this morning. And they will change again before the next sunrise. Christoph Thaiss from the Weizmann Institute of Science has discovered that the communities of microbes in out guts vary on a daily cycle. Some species rise to … Continue reading

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