August 17, 2018

Top 10 STEM News: 18th June

Credit: Brian Bilek / flickr

Our editors selection of the Top 10 STEM News form round the world this week

Scientists are using mobile mitochondria to repair damaged nerve cells

There’s hope for new treatments for neurological diseases, after scientists just discovered a link between the mobilisation of mitochondria inside nerve cells, and the cells’ subsequent regrowth.

The team thinks that kicking the mitochondria into action could be the key to repairing damage done to the nervous system.

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Life-forming molecule detected in interstellar space for the first time

or the first time ever, scientists have detected a complex organic molecule called a chiral molecule in the reaches of interstellar space, and the discovery could greatly enhance our understanding of how biological life came to be on Earth – and maybe even life’s prospects for evolving elsewhere in the galaxy.

The molecule in question, propylene oxide, was discovered in a gigantic gas cloud called Sagittarius B2, located about 390 light-years from the centre of the Milky Way. Sagittarius B2 has a mass around 3 million times the mass of the Sun, and now we know that this huge conglomeration contains chiral molecules in its midst, which had never previously been detected outside our Solar System.

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Physicists have mixed matter and light at room temperature for the first time

In a lovely demonstration of light’s quantum effects, physicists in the UK have just mixed a molecule with light at room temperature for the first time ever.

Light and matter are usually separate, with totally distinct properties, but now scientists have trapped a particle of light – called a photon – with a molecule in a tiny, golden cage of mirrors.

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Playing this simple game boosts the mathematical ability of five-year-olds

If you’re the kind of person who fears having to solve mathematical problems, the results of a new study might improve your confidence and stimulate your maths abilities at the same time – and all thanks to our intuitive sense in judging quantities.

Researchers have shown that the arithmetic performance of kindergarteners can be boosted in a matter of minutes, just by playing a simple number game that appears to warm up their cognitive processes.

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Caffeine has little to no benefit after 3 nights of sleep restriction

A new study found that after restricting sleep to 5 hours per night, caffeine use no longer improved alertness or performance after three nights.

Results show that relative to placebo, caffeine significantly improved Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) performance during the first 2 days, but not the last 3 days of sleep restriction.

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Scientists have invented a machine that lets us communicate with plants

We are definitely living in the future right now. We have self-driving cars, we might need to become cyborgs to stop AI taking over (thanks, Elon Musk), and now we can talk to plants – and they’ll respond.

Well… sort of.

Watch Video


Researchers open hairy new chapter in 3-D printing

Researchers have found a way to bypass a major design step in 3-D printing, to quickly and efficiently model and print thousands of hair-like structures. Instead of using conventional computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw thousands of individual hairs on a computer the team built a new software platform, called ‘Cilllia,’ that lets users define the angle, thickness, density, and height of thousands of hairs, in just a few minutes.

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Need to remember something? Exercise four hours later!

A new study suggests an intriguing strategy to boost memory for what you’ve just learned: hit the gym four hours later. The findings show that physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces, but only if the exercise is done in a specific time window and not immediately after learning.

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May goes down as Earth’s hottest on record: NASA

May’s temperatures broke global records yet again, as the northern hemisphere finishes its hottest spring on record, statistics released Tuesday by NASA showed.

The Arctic in particular experienced abnormal heat, causing Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet to start melting unusually early, said NASA.

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Curiosity rover finds possible evidence of ancient explosive volcanoes on Mars

A large team of researchers from across the U.S. studying data sent back from Mars by the Curiosity rover has found evidence of tridymite, a type of mineral associated with explosive volcanoes here on Earth. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how the rover found the sample, the testing it underwent, and why it might lead to rethinking the early history of the Red planet.

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