February 21, 2019

Week In STEM-22 Aug

Robot Terminator?

A Google subsidiary has taken a large step – quite literally – in trying to make humanoid robots as realistic as possible. Its creation, an Atlas robot, was able to walk unaided across rough terrain, a vast improvement over recent failures at the Robot Olympics.

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New Type Of Glass Produced

Glass is, by nature, random. It is created by melting several minerals together at unfathomably high temperatures. Glass has a haphazard, disorganized structure, like a liquid frozen in time. However, by some happy accident, some scientists have created glass with a regular molecular pattern.

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Making Superconductors

The dream of superconductors – materials that transmit electricity with no resistance – at room temperature is inching closer toward reality. Traditionally, superconductors need to be cooled to almost absolute zero (–273.15°C, −459.67°F) for their zero-resistance effects to be felt. However, scientists are slowly pushing this limit to higher temperatures, and this newest method works at the highest temperature yet: –70°C (–94°F).

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HIV Vaccine Trials to Commence

An HIV vaccine trial in humans is set to begin in Zimbabwe next month, according to researchers. The early phase clinical trial to be conducted by the University of Zimbabwe in partnership with the US-based University of San Francisco, California, has vaccines similar to the RV144, commonly known as the Thai Trial, which cut the risk of HIV infection by about 31 per cent.

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Magnetic Wormhole Created in Lab

Ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, physicists have crafted a wormhole that tunnels a magnetic field through space.

“This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible,” said study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps, a doctoral candidate in physics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. “From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension.

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Ghanaian scientist wins 2015 Royal Society Pfizer Early Career Award

Dr Gordon A. Awandare, Head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana, has become the first Ghanaian to win the Royal Society Pfizer Early Career Award.

The Early Career Award is presented to a research scientist showing exceptional promise, but at an earlier stage of his or her career, usually having received their PhD within the last 20 years. The 2015 Award is in recognition of his achievements in Molecular and Cellular Studies of Malaria, including how Malaria parasites invade red blood cells and cause diseases.

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Repairing Broken Genes

Science is about asking questions. Sixty years ago, the question was: what does our genetic code look like? Then: how many genes make up our DNA? After that: which genes cause diseases?

Now the question is: what if we could repair broken genes?

It has been a goal of doctors and scientists for decades to correct disease-causing mistakes in our DNA. A new technology called genome editing brings us closer to making that goal a reality.

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Trauma Can Be Passed On To Children

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children. This serves as the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generation. This is the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children.

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Climate Change Shrinking Uganda’s Lakes and Fish

Climate change is reducing the size of several species of fish on lakes in Uganda and its neighbouring East African countries, with a negative impact on the livelihoods of millions people who depend on fishing for food and income.

Studies conducted on inland lakes in Uganda, including Lake Victoria which is shared by three East African countries, indicate that indigenous fish species have shrunk in size due to an increase in temperatures in the water bodies.

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New monkey species found in Peru

The discovery of new primates, especially monkeys, is a pretty big deal.

Excluding prosimians (those tiny tree huggers with freakily human-like fingers and saucers for eyes), only 21 new species have been identified since 2000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose Primate Specialist Group is the ultimate authority on these questions.

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New method could improve atmospheric forecasts

In a new paper published online in Geophysical Research Letters, Lovejoy shows how to directly harness the atmosphere’s elephantine memory to produce temperature forecasts that are somewhat more accurate than conventional numerical computer models. This new method, he says, could help improve notoriously poor seasonal forecasts, as well as producing better long-term climate projections.

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