July 21, 2019

Week In STEM-23rd Jan

Why the brain uses so much energy

There’s much about the brain we still have to discover, and one of the unanswered questions surrounding this most vital of organs is how it uses up most of its energy. The brain claims around 20 percent of the total oxygen used to fuel our bodies, yet we don’t know where most of that goes. Now an IBM researcher thinks he might have solved the mystery.

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Physical attraction linked to genes that control height

Some may believe that chance brings you together with your loved one, but scientists have found a far less romantic reason. Mate choice is influenced by our genes, in part by those responsible for our height

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Cosmic phenomenon that travel faster than light

When Albert Einstein first predicted that light travels the same speed everywhere in our Universe, he essentially stamped a speed limit on it: 299,792 kilometres per second (186,282 miles per second) – fast enough to circle the entire Earth eight times every second. But that’s not the whole story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Since Einstein, physicists have found that certain entities can reach superluminal (that means “faster-than-light”) speeds and still follow the cosmic rules laid down by special relativity. While these do not disprove Einstein’s theory, they give us insight into the peculiar behavior of light and the quantum realm.

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Zebra stripes not for camouflage, new study finds

Looking through the eyes of zebra predators, researchers found no evidence supporting the notion that zebras’ black and white stripes are for protective camouflage or that they provide a social advantage.

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What you need to know about the Zika virus

The Zika virus, which has only recently moved beyond Africa and Southeast Asia, has already had debilitating effects in the Americas. It’s especially problematic in Brazil, where it’s appears to be connected to a serious birth defect.

Now, after a baby born with a brain abnormality in Hawaii tested positive for the virus, the CDC has come up with guidelines for how to identify the disease and monitor women who are pregnant during the outbreak.

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New material can harvest sunlight by day and release heat at night

As solar power becomes a bigger part of our overall energy mix, scientists are working on more efficient ways of storing the power of the Sun for use during the night-time, or on particularly cloudy days. And now a new type of materialhas been developed that can do just that – store solar energy when it’s in abundance, and release it as heat later on as required.

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Neuroscientists have figured out how your brain wakes you up

You may not realise it when your alarm clock forces you into a bleary-eyed stupor first thing in the morning, but there’s actually a complex chemical process going on inside your brain as you wake up. And scientists now think they’ve identified the part of the brain that ends periods of light sleep and brings us into a state of wakefulness.

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Why are habits so hard to break?

Taming that sweet tooth for your New Year’s resolution might be harder than you think. New research suggests that forming a habit leaves a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain, which in turn seems to prime us to further feed our cravings. The research deepens scientists’ understanding of how habits manifest and may suggest new strategies for breaking the bad ones.

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Why your brain makes you slip up when anxious

Neuroscientists have identified the brain network system that causes us to stumble and stall just when we least want to. Previous research has shown that people tend to exert more force when they know they are being watched. For example, pianists unconsciously press keys harder when they play in front of an audience compared to when playing alone. The new research explores why.

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Depression of either parent during pregnancy linked to premature birth

Depression in both expectant mothers and fathers increases the risk of premature birth, finds a new study. In this study, more than 350,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2012 were investigated for parental depression and incidence of either very preterm birth (between 22 and 31 weeks) or moderately preterm birth (32-36 weeks).

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Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more than previously thought

The brain’s memory capacity is in the petabyte range, as much as entire Web, new research indicates. The new work answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.

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Researchers pinpoint place where cancer cells may begin

In a study involving the fruit fly equivalent of an oncogene implicated in many human leukemias, a research team has gained insight into how developing cells normally switch to a restricted, or specialized, state and how that process might go wrong in cancer. The researchers were surprised to discover that levels of an important protein start fluctuating wildly in cells during this transition period. If the levels don’t or can’t fluctuate, the cell doesn’t switch and move forward.

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