SCIENCE IN THE NEWS!
A look back at some of the biggest science, technology and engineering news stories from the past week.
Special Report: Commander Chris Hadfield
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been keeping busy aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Aside from starting his position as Commander of the ISS this month, Commander Hadfield wrote an original song aboard the ISS, which he was able to perform with fellow Canadians The Barenaked Ladies. The song is called ISS (Is Somebody Singing), a play on 'International Space Station' and can be seen in CurioCity's 'Video' section. In addition to commanding a space station and making music, Commander Hadfield is still finding time to connect with us back home. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Twitter that he will be having a live chat with Commander Hadfield later this month, but did not give a specific date. Check back on CurioCity's Science News discussion board for updates on when the chat will take place.
TOP FIVE SCIENCE NEWS STORIES OF THE WEEK
5. New Bacteria in Antarctic Lake
Scientists from both the United States and Russia have drilled through the ice into frozen Antarctic lakes. The team of Russian scientists drilled into Lake Vostok, which is believed to have been covered by ice for 1 000 000 years! They collected a water sample in May 2012 that contained what appeared to be an unknown kind of bacteria. After testing the DNA, it was concluded that it did not match any known types of bacteria in the global database and has been described as unclassified and unidentified.
Update: Russian scientists dismissed claims that they had discovered an unknown form of life, stating that the samples had been contaminated.
4. Building Blocks of Life 25 000 Light Years Away
Researchers in the United States, using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, have been studying a giant cloud of gas 25 000 light years away, near the middle of the Milky Way. The researchers were able to use the information from radio frequencies that are able to determine the specific structure of molecules and match it with data from the telescope to determine that dusty ice particles within the gas cloud carry molecules that are the precursors to life. The researchers discovered two molecules; one, cyanomethanimine, is a precursor to adenine, which is one of the 4 nucleobases that make up DNA. The other, ethanamine, is believed to play a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine. Amino acids such as alanine are important as they are used to make proteins coded by DNA. This is an interesting discovery because if the precursors to life are found jetting around on ice particles in an interstellar gas cloud such as this, then they would be easily able transfer to newly formed planets leading to a chance of life forming of the planets.
3. 3-D Printed Implant Used to Replace Skull
In a groundbreaking surgery, an un-named patient in the United States had 75 percent of their skull replaced by a 3-D printed implant. The implants, which are produced by Oxford Performance Materials can be produced in as quickly as two weeks. These implants have the potential to replace damaged body parts.
2. Wireless Implanted Brain-Computer Interface
A huge development in neurological technologies, Researchers at Brown University have developed the first wireless, implantable, rechargeable, long-term brain-computer interface. Brain-computer interfaces aren't new, but previous ones have always been tethered to a computer. These brain-computer interfaces have enabled paralyzed users to move robotic limbs using only their mind. The new wireless device could allow users to ditch the bulky computer and have more mobility. The device, which has been tested on primates and pigs for the last thirteen months, can also allow researchers to better understand how the brains of these animals are working in more complex situations, such as social situations where individuals will require greater mobility. Despite the potential benefits of this type of wireless brain-computer interface, researchers have no requested approval for human use.
1. HIV Breakthroughs
There has been a lot of big news in HIV research lately and this past week was no exception! There was at least two notable stories about HIV research this past week. First, for the first time doctors were able to functionally cure an infant of HIV. Doctors have previously functionally cured at least one man of HIV using a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant individual. In this case doctors were able to cure the infant from HIV by using drugs. The second story this week from the world of HIV research is that a toxin found in bee venom is able to destroy HIV particles while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. Bee venom contains a compound called melittin that is able to puncture the protective casing that surrounds HIV and other viruses. Researchers believe that this compound can help with both prevention and treatment of HIV.
FOR MORE NEWS STORIES CHECK OUT CURIOCITY'S SCIENCE NEWS DISCUSSION BOARD!