02 September, 2010 – This Week in Science


Changing Laws of Physics, A New Human Organ, Testing Strings, Forbidden Food, Tiny Cannibals, People Power, Red Rain and Aliens, Whirly Bird Lasers, You Can’t Stop The Madness, Accidental Chemistry, We Need Stem Cells, Volcanic Eruptions, and Much, Much More…

Show Notes:
Fighting the Law
The laws of physics may vary through time and through different parts of the universe. It’s possible that we live in a very special pocket of physical laws that sustain life.

New Organ Found in Humans (Mostly Americans)
Some scientists argue that taken as a whole fat cells could actually be considered an organ. Instead of just passively storing fat, these cells actively send chemical signals to other parts of that body. 20 types of hormones and other substances have been shown to be secreted from fat cells that are not secreted from anywhere else in the body, contributing to problems such as heart disease.

Physical Physics
Scientists are attempting to physically test the mathematical predictions made by string theory using quantum entanglement. They hope to give string theory (which has long been purely theoretical) some evidential backing.

From DNA to GPA
Scientists analyzing the correlation between genetics and academic success have found that academic performance tends to suffer if certain dopaminergic variants are present.

Death by One’s Own Sword
Its long been known that bacteria engage in chemical warfare, including a certain cannibalistic bacteria called Bacillus subtilis. Researchers used imaging mass spectrometry to pinpoint the killing factors that were involved in this species’ attack. They isolated the proteins and then used these isolated chemicals to kill the Bacillus as well as other species of bacteria. Is this the first step towards using a bacteria’s own chemical defense system against itself?

September calls for a new book of the month! This month read along with the TWIS Bookclub as we dive into Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. Get your copy now:

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New lasers attached to helicopters are designed to shoot down guided missiles.

Breakthrough in Fuel Cell Efficiency
The goal of self sufficient houses is to make each home its own power system with solar panels on the roof, and a fuel cell in the basement. Until now a limiting factor has been finding a catalyst for splitting water that will take minimal electrical input. Now a new catalyst is boosting the current system by 200 fold.

This is your Brain on Thinking…
Exercising your brain has been shown to delay dementia, but new research shows that once dementia does set in, a well exercised brain actually decays due to dementia faster.

Stem Cell Ruling Halts Research for Sight
A freeze in federal funding has halted research that was on the way to restoring sight for the blind. Scientists warn the public that a generation of researchers may turn away from stem cell research if these political standstills continue.

Aliens in the Rain
In 2001 red rain the fell on India. A physicist examining samples of this mysterious rain found cells with no DNA. After years of studying these cells, he found that they reproduce at a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius. Scientists speculate whether these cells could have an extraterrestrial origin, possibly from a comet that disintegrated in the atmosphere and seeded the clouds.

TWIS needs some help!
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