Recently I’ve been trawling around the internet to find interesting things to write about. I think I may have been slightly overenthusiastic and ambitious about the list I’ve created. So I thought:
“Meh! I’ll include them all!”
1. 25th of February – PLOS Medicine
Cutting edge research out of Estonia (not a sentence you hear often…) has revealed bio-markers that could be used in the identification of risk in seemingly healthy people. Plasma albumin, alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particle size and citrate can all predict short-term risk of death for a wide variety of diseases. This begs the question – would you really want to know?
It should be pointed out that there are limitations – the researchers note that some other factor not measurable by the technique they use (NMR for those interested), could be the actual cause of these deaths… but it’s still promising.
2. 26thof February – Nature
NASA announced 715 exoplanets had been discovered by their spacecraft, Kepler, including 4 in the magical “Goldilocks” zone. These planets are close enough, but not too far away, from their stars, for the temperature to be “just right” for water to exist as a liquid.
Kepler is now effectively dead in the water due to a mechanical malfunction, but the data it transmitted before it shut down is still revealing interesting things about our galaxy. Stay tuned.
3. 28th of February – Scientific Reports
Surprise! Large cities are less green. Interestingly, I don’t mean large in terms of population so much as size. Sprawling suburbia, while definitely nicer on a psychological level, means further for commuters to travel to get to work which means a higher level of CO2 emissions than smaller, more compact cities.
However, the results of this study also proved a positive link between population and emissions. Which makes sense – the larger the population, the larger the city….
Unless you live in Australia… we like to spread.
3. 3rd of March – Nature Communications
Findings by the University of Western Australia discovered that 95% of the world’s fish are currently hiding in the deeper ocean in order to avoid birds. This is also about 30 times more biomass in this layer than was previously thought. Turns out these fish are exceptionally good at detecting fishing nets and have been diving out of the way resulting in low estimates of numbers. Instead of using nets, the researchers counted the fish numbers using sonar.
This is good news for the oceans. These fish can’t be caught with nets – oceans are actually a good deal more healthy and vibrant than we thought. That sound you’re hearing is thousands of sushi chefs rejoicing.
5. 4th of March – PNAS
It finally happened: the genome of the pepper plant has been sequenced. In the ongoing quest to find the hottest chilli in existence, scientists have identified the genes within the pepper Chiltepin annuum which could lead to bioengineering chillies with mind-numbing heat.
You know… for science!
6. 4th of March – State of the Climate 2014
Australia’s temperature is on the rise. For me, this is really not surprising. Last summer news broadcasters had to add an entirely new colour to their maps to depict temperatures over 50oC (122 oF). The 2014 State of the Climate report by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology said that an increase of 0.6 – 1.5oC was likely by 2030.
Unfortunately this means less rain and more bush fires for us. Although there may be a silver lining. The chief executive officer of the Climate Institute, John Conner (that made me laugh), said:
“The government’s self-identified ‘primary advisers’ on climate, BoM and CSIRO today clearly linked carbon emissions, climate change, fire and drought in stark contrast to their own reluctance to do so.”
I call that a win… sort of.
7. 5th of March – PNAS
This headline in the New York Times immediately caught my attention:
“Scientists revive ‘giant virus’ from Siberian permafrost”
Doesn’t that sound like a B-grade sci-fi movie plot? I love it. The idea behind this seemingly foolhardy research is to look into whether or not ice melts are dangerous to humans. According to The Times, researchers have discovered a multitude of freakishly well preserved specimens include a seed that Russian scientists managed to grow, and a group that feasted on Mammoth… you know… for science.
The virus is the latest find in a group called “Pandoraviruses” of the family Megaviridae. These viruses are HUGE – this one is 1.2µm in diameter (the largest known previously was 0.5µm!) and have the ability to infect amoeba in the lab. The next step is figuring out if any of these viruses are human pathogens or have the ability to develop into such things. If the ice around the world is melting, and all indications point towards that being true, ancient viruses could be coming back. It would be nice to have some sort of protection.
But on the more optimistic side of the coin, we could discover something helpful…. Who knows?