19 April, 2012 – This Week in Science

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Evolving XNA, Moving A Hand, Blair’s Animal Corner, No Bird Magnets, Cooler Heads Prevail, Predicting Your Future, Livers Need Love, DIY Drugstores, Remembering Lines, And Much More…

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
The end of the world is coming.
Yes, the world we are living on, the planet called earth is going to be destroyed by our sun…
The same sun that nurtures sprouting plant life, that warms cheeks on beaches, that fuels our planets climate and atmosphere through passive radiation… is going to burn us to a cinder.
It has been predicted by scientific methods, peer reviewed and rigorously verified by leading members of the scientific community…
The end of the world is coming, for sure!
And while it’s not going to happen for a few billion years, and you and I and everyone we know and everyone who has yet to be born will have met more intimately tangible ends long before it happens…
Knowing that this world is not a permanent fixture in the universe can give us some perspective into our own mortality.
If we consider how wonderful a planet it is, how lucky we are to have lived here, or to have lived at all…
What a strange set of circumstances lead to this moment of here and now, getting to play our parts in the history of the universe as living, breathing, thinking beings of mind and body…
The greatest witnesses to the existence of the universe that, as far as we can tell so far, have ever existed on any rock around any star anywhere across time and space.
The moment in which you can do is always now, and what better use of your now than using that amazing brain of yours to tune into another episode of…
This Week in Science… coming up next

Evolving XNA
Synthetics: not just your mom’s jumpsuit from the 70’s: UK’s Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology has successfully created synthetic DNA, called XNA. They even managed to make a polymerase that can make XNA from DNA, and visa versa. This XNA can even evolve. Are synthetic organisms next to come out of the lab?

A New Brain Machine
Northwestern University has developed a “brain machine” that can move muscles without use of the spinal cord. By mimicking the electrical pulses sent out from the brain to muscles in monkeys, they successfully moved a paralyzed hand. This could be monumental for people with spinal cord injuries, or, a tool for world domination…

Blair’s Animal Corner
The Rock Hyrax may have more complex language skills than we had previously thought. It turns out that this animal resembling a rodent, but most closely related to elephants, has syntax when it sings. That is, the notes of a hyrax call have an intentional order, and this order varies from one region to another, like dialects. Can other species of mammals communicate in ways that we just haven’t noticed? Probably.

No magnetic neurons in birds
Conventional wisdom has told us that metallic cells in birds’ beaks help them to navigate by the use of magnetic fields. However, recent research of pigeon beaks found macrophages instead, which would never have been able to send information to the brain to aid in navigation. That means that the avian sense of direction is once again, a mystery.

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Cool it, now!
Inducing hypothermia after a heart attack could reduce likelihood of stroke and brain damage. By reducing a patient’s body temperature by 6 degrees fahrenheit for 24 hours, we can protect the brain and vital organs from permanent damage. Will modern medicine accept a treatment that does not involve prescription drugs?

fMRIs Predict Future Behavior
By tracking the response of your brain to specific images, scientists can predict your future. If your brain is more stimulated by food, you are likely to gain weight. If your brain responds to steamy photos, you are likely to be sexually active in the near future. If you know you are more tempted by food right now, will you be able to set yourself up for success?

Another reason to drink?!
People with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) could use a drink or two. Those who consume one to two servings of alcohol a day are half as likely to develop hepatitis as those who are non-drinkers.

DIY drugstores
3D printing technology from the University of Glasgow could allow you to print out your own prescriptions. Chemical reactions within polymer gel that sets at room temperature make “do it yourself Rx’s” a possibility.

What makes a movie line memorable?
The components that make movie quotes memorable have been identified. Mainly, the quote has to be applicable to real-life situations, it must be versatile. Based on these parameters, a computer program can identify which lines will be remembered.

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I'm the host of this little science show.