02 May, 2013 – This Week in Science


SpaceShipTwo Goes Airborne, Little Movies, Saturnian Hurricanes, Chinese Flu News, Torpor Or Hibernation?, Birds For Boys, Men Vs Women, Island Chihuahuas?, Tunguska Meteorite Samples, HPV For Cancer, Think You’re Old?, And Much More…

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer!!!

Some headlines!
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo completed a successful test flight this past Monday. Launched from aboard WhiteKnight Two out of Mojave, CA, the space plane reached 55,000 feet before returning to earth. Virgin Galactic expects to achieve full space flight by the end of this year, and will be offering flights for $200,000 to anyone willing and able to pony up the cash.

In a new twist on stop-motion films, IBM created the first ever movie in the genre that takes place at the atomic scale. Called A Boy and His Dog, the short took 10 days of 18 hour long shifts, two scanning tunneling microscopes, and 5000 carbon monoxide molecules to create the 242 atomic frames.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sent back stunning images of a giant hurricane-like storm on Saturn. It’s 1250 miles in diameter with winds registering around 300 miles an hour. Unlike earthly hurricanes, the one on Saturn is locked to the north pole. And, with little water vapor in its atmosphere and no land formations to speak of, nobody really knows where such strong winds come from. Hurricane scientists here on Earth are excited to study it to learn more about hurricanes on our own planet.

Now, for discussion:
Chinese virologists interested in studying how changes in the flu virus allow it to jump between species, namely from birds to swine, and on to humans, have created a hybrid of the H5N1 bird flu and H1N1 swine flu in their lab. The hybrid virus they created is the best of both strains in that it is not only very easily transmissible, but also extremely lethal. Only guinea pigs were infected in this experiment, but is it worth the risk?

Hibernating monkeys?!
Well not monkeys, but eastern dwarf lemurs. These primates hibernate not to avoid the cold as in other mammals, but to avoid dry spells when resources are limited. Could this be forced in humans for hibernation therapy or science-fictiony needs? 3013 here I come!

Cannibalistic Maggots!
In crowded laboratpry conditions, fruit fly larvae will often persue, attack, and consume one another. Despite the flies’ herbivorous tendencies, if their parents, or even their parents’ parents, were reared in hard times, their offspring would be more likely to cannibalise. Try going to sleep now, eh?

Bluebirds favor boys
Bluebird parents favor sons over daughters, and favor bright colored sons over dull ones. Sure, everyone has favorites, but do other parents sarve their less-than-favorite offspring to death? I hope not…

Antibiotic for men protects them from women
After using a placebo masked as antibiotics, men were more trusting of attractive women. However, those who took the real antibiotics were unbiased in relation to attractiveness. Do antibiotics affect thought processes?

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Island Dwarfism – Could it explain homo floresiensis?
Chihuahuas, african grey parrots, are these also island dwarfism cases? Let’s discuss…

Tunguska fragments uncovered!
The Siberian cometary mystery in 1908 that flattened trees may have a breakthrough! Someone has come forward with three rocks that he claims are meteorites from the explosion. Or was it Nikola Tesla’s experiments? You decide…

HPV vaccine – it’s not just for cancer…
A new argument states that perhaps we should focus HPV vaccine pitches on preventing STD’s instead of on preventing cancer. Wait… What? We need to get our priorities straight.

The secret to longer life is in your head.
Researchers at Einstein College have found that the hypothalamus is the key to aging, at least in mice. That means you’re only as old as your hypothalamus thinks you are.

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