Recent Interesting Science Articles (Feb ’12)Friday, March 2, 2012 13:53
Posted in category Science
February may the shortest month of the year but there’s certainly no shortage of interesting science-based news. Maybe because it’s a leap year?
- The New York Times has a story about how Alzheimer’s spreads from brain cell to brain cell like an infection. What’s particularly interesting here is that it’s not being spread by viruses or bacteria, but by distorted proteins known as tau. I pay special attention to all news articles about Alzheimer”s as it’s an especially terrifying disease to me.
- Also from The New York Times, the next article talks about how people who suffer from dyslexia, which is usually associated with impaired reading and learning ability, may benefit from unexpected side effects. In particular, people with dyslexia seem to have superior peripheral vision and can process an entire image at a glance, as opposed to specific details in an image, more quickly. The article then goes on to speculate if these improved abilities have any real world applications.
- Nanotech robots circulating in your blood stream to fix your body has been a science-fiction staple since at least the 1966 film, Fantastic Voyage. This article from BBC News covers research into an attempt to build similar devices out of strands of DNA molecules. Unlike the film, the proposed DNA robot doesn’t come equipped with a tiny surgical laser. Instead, its mooted use is to deliver exactly determined dosages of drug molecules to pinpoint sites in the body.
- Everyone knows that 2012 is a leap year, but did you know that there are also leap seconds? As this article from The Economist explains, leap seconds are inserted into our timekeeping to account for the very slight discrepancy between the strict definition of 86,400 seconds in a day and irregularities in the Earth’s rotations. Without this contrivance, our account of time would eventually fall out of sync with perceive day/night cycles, though hundreds of years for it to become noticeable in day-to-day life. This system however may soon be coming to an end as it is inconvenient for computers around the world to have to manually reset their time every so often whenever a leap second needs to be added. Instead, the powers that be seem likely to allow the discrepancies to add up and fix them in one go later.
- When we think about planets, our first impression is that all planets are like the Earth, in that they are part of fixed system orbiting around a star. This article from the Stanford Report says that this picture is probably untrue and that by far most planets that exist in the universe are actually nomad planets that wander through space without orbiting a star. Such planets may even be big enough and have enough of an atmosphere to support life, relying on radioactive sources and tectonic movement to generate heat energy. Attention all science-fiction writers, update your space exploration paradigms, stat!
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