SCIENCE IN THE NEWS!
A look back at some of the biggest science, technology and engineering news stories from the past week.
Special Report: Settling Mars
Space exploration has been a hot topic lately, with the Mars rover, Curiosity, and Canadian Commander, Chris Hadfield, both making headlines regularly, but this is the first time I have seen a concrete plan to build a human settlement on Mars. The company Mars One has a plan to create a human settlement on Mars by the year 2023. The initial colonizers would live in special connected pods and carry out scientific research while exploring the characteristics of their new home planet, Mars. What do you think? Do you think it is a realistic goal for humans to settle on Mars by 2023? And would you volunteer to take the journey?
5. A Day in the Life of a Squid
Marine biologists at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station have uncovered new information about the Humboldt squid by attaching National Geographic's Crittercam onto one of the jumbo squid. By attaching the Crittercam, the researchers were able to watch footage from a squid's point of view. From this footage, along with other data collected using sensors, researchers learned that the squid hunt in large organized groups, can swim at speeds over 70km/hour and are able to change colours as means of communicating with other squid. Along with octopus, squid are part of the class Cephlapoda, which belongs to the phylum Mollusca, which includes snails, slugs, mussels, oysters and clams as well.
4. Arctic Greening
Researchers from the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate University, Cornell University and the University of York are predicting that parts of the Arctic will become increasingly green over the next 50 years. Since species living in the arctic, including bacteria, fungi, plants, birds and mammals, are adapted to arctic conditions, a drastic change in living conditions could have a serious detrimental effect on their survival. This will also affect temporary residents of the Arctic such as migratory birds. Warmer temperatures also come with increased green matter. Snow and ice reflect sun while green plant matter absorbs it creating warmer temperatures and increased melt. Last week there was also an article about the melt of Canadian glaciers. What do you think about the increased temperatures in the Arctic? How can we use science to help prevent the Arctic, as we know it, from disappearing?
3. The Cicadas are Coming!
Cicadas are a species of insect belonging to the family Hemiptera, also known as the 'true bugs', and you'll see why... Cicadas are notable in that have a unique life cycle wherein they live exclusively underground for most of their lives, feeding on the fluid from roots, only emerging from underground at the end of their lifecycle to find a mate before dying. The thing about cicadas is that they all stick to the same schedule, all emerging at the same time. That means that while you will go years without seeing a single cicada, once every 13-17 years you might be unable to avoid their swarms, their loud persistant love song, as well as the hoards of cicada bodies at the end of mating season. Because they appear in large numbers, have the loudest song in the insect world and seem to die en masse, cicadas can be considered pests by humans. This summer is the return of the 17-year cicadas to the northeastern United States. The last time any cicadas from this population were seen was 1996. If you live along the northeastern United States, from North Carolina to Connecticut, expect to see the cicadas this summer. Using a little science, you can help predict the cicada invasion.
The good news about cicadas is that researchers have recently found a structure on the cicada wing that kills bacteria on contact!
2. Gut Bacteria
Two recent studies, one in humans and one in mice, indicate that the composition of gut bacteria may determine whether someone loses or gains weight. The research also suggests that a rearrangement in the composition of gut bacteria populations may play a role in why patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery lose weight. Gastric bypass surgery shrinks the stomach of the patient and has been considered effective with patients losing 65-75% of their excess weight. Scientists now believe that up 20% of this weight loss could simply be attributed to the rearrangement of gut bacteria. It seems there is likely an easier way than surgery to change the composition of your gut bacteria. In cases that aren't as serious and don't require surgery, what do you think are some other options of what can be done in order to create healthier and more beneficial populations of bacteria in our guts?
1. Smart Phone Blood Monitor
A group of researchers in Switzerland has developed a tiny (14mm) implantable blood monitoring device. The device can be implanted under the skin to monitor up to five different substances in the blood that range from the body's naturally synthesized proteins to medications. Using bluetooth, the tiny monitor can then transmit the information t a smart phone, alerting the user to changes in blood chemistry, which may indicate a serious medical condition. This technology could help improve the lives of people who are at risk for certain heath conditions that can be detected by changes in blood chemistry, such a heart attach or diabetes, and those who are taking medications at a very specific or critical dose, such as those with certain kinds of cancer. What do you think? Do you think this kind of technology is helping to advance medical care? Would you get a similar implant?
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