December 18, 2018

    Pushing the boundaries: discovery of the most distant solar system object ever observed

    Space | Dec 18, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    Solar system distances to scale showing the newly discovered 2018 VG18 compared to other known solar system objects. Image: Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott S. Sheppard, Carnegie Institution for Science.
    Pushing the boundaries: discovery of the most distant solar system object ever observed - space short science news

    For the first time, astronomers have observed an object in our solar system at a distance of 120 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, or 120 astronomical units (AU).

    For comparison, the distance from Earth to Pluto is “only” 34 AU, and the second-most distant object, Eris, is 96 AU away from us.

    Researchers have observed that the newly discovered object, a planet with the provisional name of 2018 VG18, orbits very slowly, making a full orbit in about 1,000 years.

    Read the full story: Carnegie Institution for Science


    Abundance of dinosaur footprints discovered in England

    Earth | Dec 17, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    The footprint of an iguanodontian discovered at the site. Credit: University of Cambridge
    Abundance of dinosaur footprints discovered in England - daily science news

    A rich collection of dinosaur footprints was recently discovered in East Sussex, UK. Containing more than 85 well-preserved footprints, the site is the most diverse and detailed from the Cretaceous period in the UK.

    The prints date between 145 and 100 million years ago. Their size varies between 2 and 60 cm and they belong to several species of dinosaurs.

    The footprints can help scientists learn more about the structure of dinosaur communities that lived there. Since fossils are rare, the footprints can provide useful information to fill in the gaps in what we know.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology


    How many car trips could we replace using bicycles?

    Life | Dec 17, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    Using bicycles for short distances could replace up to 40% of the car trips
    Can we replace cars with bicycles? - science news

    A recent study investigated the possibility of replacing car trips with more active ways of transportation, such as bicycles or even walking.

    According to the study, most people would be willing to give up their car and walk for an average distance of 1.6 km (0.99 miles) or cycle for a distance of 3.5 km (2.17 miles). This means that around 20% of car trips could be replaced by walking and 40% by bicycle.

    The study also assessed the perceived barriers in using bicycles instead of cars. Most participants evoked safety and practical issues as the main reasons for not giving up the car. The findings provide valuable information for developing measures to promote the replacement of cars by other non-motorized transport means.

    Read the full story: Polytechnic University of Madrid
    Scientific publication: Sustainability


    Possible mechanism for neonatal diabetes discovered

    Health | Dec 17, 2018 | Alexandru Ciobanu

    In neonatal diabetes half of the produced insulin is mutated which induces a state of chronic stress in the pancreas
    Possible mechanism for neonatal diabetes discovered

    Some babies are diagnosed with diabetes within the first six months of life. In many cases, this is linked to mutations in one copy of the genes coding for insulin. Since half of the produced insulin is still normal, it is not clear how the diabetes forms in infants.

    Now, a new study suggests that the mutant insulin produced by the affected gene induces a chronic stress that disturbs the growth and development of insulin-producing cells from the pancreas. This triggers diabetes itself.

    The study used stem cells from people carrying insulin gene mutations to reach the conclusion. Using the CRISPR techniques the researchers were able to reverse the damage. The findings may help devise new ways to prevent neonatal diabetes.

    Read the full story: AlphaGalileo
    Scientific publication: eLife


    Shy people have higher ‘HANGXIETY’

    Mind and Brain | Dec 14, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Increased anxiety the next day with hangover is seen in shy people
    Shy people have higher ‘HANGXIETY’ - short science news and articles

    Well, while people say that drinking alcohol decreases shyness, there is a downside to this. Researchers have found out that very shy individuals are more likely to suffer from higher anxiety during a hangover as compared to their extroverted friends.

    In a study conducted on 100 social drinkers, drinking six units of alcohol decreased anxiety in highly shy individuals, but this slight relaxation afforded by alcohol got replaced by higher amount of anxiety the next day.

    Researchers feel that this could be trigger point of increased risk of highly shy people to develop problems with alcohol over the long run.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Personality and Individual Differences


    We are reversing a long-term cooling trend

    Earth | Dec 14, 2018 | Kshitij Jadhav

    Humans are heating up the earth and reversing a long-term cooling trend
    We are reversing a long-term cooling trend - short science news and articles
    Researchers have found out that humans are reversing a long-term cooling trend which can be traced back to 50 million years. Alarmingly, this has happened in just two centuries.

    Without the reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, the earth climate by 2150 could be similar to the warm and the most ice-free Eocene era which happened 50 million years ago.

    While all the current species on the Earth today have had an ancestor which survived the Eocene, it remains to be seen whether humans can adapt to these rapid changes since this accelerated change in climate has never been seen before by any life on this planet.

    Read the full story: University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    T cell function in the elderly weakens through defective metabolic pathway

    Health | Dec 14, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The elderly suffer more serious complications from infections and benefit less from vaccination than the general population
    T cell function in the elderly weakens through defective metabolic pathway - health short science news
    A metabolic pathway in the immune system’s T cells that makes proteins and DNA is less active in T cells from aged mice.

    This pathway plays a central role in cell replication and thus building the army of immune cells that attack invaders. When researchers added products (formate and glycine) of the metabolic pathway to weakened T cells, these cells became fully functional again, proliferated well and did not die prematurely.

    These results indicate that it should be possible to boost the immune system of elderly people to protect them better against the consequences of infections.

    Read the full story: Harvard Medical School
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Cause of, and cure for, a gut-brain disease have been found in mice

    Health | Dec 14, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    The brain of an 11 day old mouse exposed to experimental necrotizing enterocolitis with reactive oxygen species (causing oxidative stress and brain damage) in red. Image: David Hackam
    Cause of, and cure for, a gut-brain disease have been found in mice - health short science news

    Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a potentially fatal disease that causes a premature infant’s gut to suddenly die, and induces brain injury.

    Using a mouse model of NEC, researchers found that levels of the protein TLR4 remain high in the gut of offspring born prematurely, instead of dropping after full-term delivery. This protein in NEC guts causes the release of another protein, HMGB1. This protein, generated by TLR4 in an inflamed gut in NEC, is the cause of NEC-associated brain injury. When NEC mice received antioxidants in their brains, they did not develop brain injury.

    Now that its molecular underpinnings are known, there is hope that NEC treatments can finally be developed.

    Read the full story: Johns Hopkins University
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    A fast evaporating exoplanet found

    Space | Dec 14, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    This graphic plots exoplanets (dots) based on their size and distance from their star. Planets the size of Jupiter and super-Earths are found both close to and far from their star. Planets the size of Neptune are scarce close to their star (Neptune desert). Image: NASA, ESA and A. Feild (STScI)
    A fast evaporating exoplanet found - space short science news
    Astronomers have been puzzled for a long time by the near-absence of big, Neptune-sized gas planets in the proximity of their star.

    New observations with the Hubble Space Telescope have indicated that the hot Neptune-like exoplanet GJ 3470b, that resides at the border of the empty zone, is fast losing its atmosphere. Thus hot Neptunes closer to the star might have lost their atmosphere as well, and could have eroded down to smaller, rocky super Earths that are found close to the star.

    These observations give more insight into planetary evolution.

    Read the full story: NASA and University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Astronomy and Astrophysics


    Origin of complex animals in deep oceans explained by stability of ambient temperature

    Life | Dec 13, 2018 | Erwin van den Burg

    More than 570 million years ago, in the Ediacaran period, complex organisms including soft-bodied animals up to a meter long made their appearance in deep ocean waters.
    Origin of complex animals in deep oceans explained by stability of ambient temperature - life short science news

    How could complex animal life have started in the deep oceans, where food and oxygen are scarce? Scientists think they have found the answer: because of the stable temperature there.

    Early complex animals could not regulate their body temperature themselves, but depended on ambient temperature. In a world with low oxygen, they therefore could not have survived the many temperature swings of up to 10 °C in shallow waters.

    Stable temperatures were thus necessary for complex animals to evolve, and this was only found in the deep oceans.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the Royal Society B


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