December 14, 2017

STEM News – 13th Feb

Gravitational waves seen for first time

Gravitational waves, the booming echoes of massive objects moving all over the universe, have been detected for the first time by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which was recently upgraded.

Gravitational waves are predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that massive objects warp space-time around them. When these objects accelerate, they make gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of space-time that spread outward, like the wake left behind a boat.

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Horses can recognise human facial expressions

Horses are able to discriminate between happy and angry human facial expressions, according to research.

In an experiment using photographs of male human faces, scientists from the University of Sussex showed that domestic horses “responded negatively” to angry expressions.

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Sighing is actually a life-saving reflex

Sighing’s actually a crucial reflex that keeps our lungs healthy, and researchers have just uncovered the switch in our brain that controls it.

The team identified two tiny clusters of neurons in the brain stem that automatically turn normal breaths into sighs when our lungs need some extra help – and they do this roughly every 5 minutes (or 12 times an hour), regardless of whether or not you’re thinking about something depressing.

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Bacteria ‘see’ like tiny eyeballs

Biologists say they have solved the riddle of how a tiny bacterium senses light and moves towards it: the entire organism acts like an eyeball.

In a single-celled pond slime, they observed how incoming rays are bent by the bug’s spherical surface and focused in a spot on the far side of the cell.

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Aerobic Exercise Can Make Your Brain Bigger

Every week, it seems there is new cutting-edge research that confirms the brain benefits of physical activity. For example, a study released today reports that sustained aerobic exercise increases the birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the brain.

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Potential preventive treatment for sudden cardiac death

Roughly 15 years ago, a team of researchers discovered the precise malfunction of a specific protein in the heart that leads to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common culprit in cases of sudden death in young athletes. A team of scientists have now used some of these findings to develop a possible treatment to prevent this inherited disease that can cause the heart to thicken and stop pumping blood effectively, leading to heart failure.

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Starting age of marijuana use may have long-term effects on brain development

The age at which an adolescent begins using marijuana may affect typical brain development, according to researchers. Scientists describe how marijuana use, and the age at which use is initiated, may adversely alter brain structures that underlie higher order thinking.

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GPS tracking down to the centimeter

A new, more computationally efficient way to process data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) has been developed to enhance location accuracy from the meter-level down to a few centimeters.

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Could the food we eat affect our genes?

Almost all of our genes may be influenced by the food we eat, suggests new research. The study, carried out in yeast — which can be used to model some of the body’s fundamental processes — shows that while the activity of our genes influences our metabolism, the opposite is also true and the nutrients available to cells influence our genes.

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