Recent Interesting Science Articles (October 2017)

With the Nobel Prizes being awarded earlier this month, there seems to be a bit of a lull in other science-related news.

  • The most fortuitously timed announcement, in light of the Nobel Prize for physics this year, is that for the first time a collision between two neutron stars has been observed through detection of both the gravitational waves and the electromagnetic radiation generated by the event. Not only did this demonstrate that light and gravitational waves travel at the same speed but it also provided astronomers with a treasure trove of information as the two sets  of data can be used to compare against one another. An astonishingly large proportion of the astronomers and astrophysics in the world now seems to be involved one way or another in this endeavor.
  • For a century, average human intelligence has been going up, a phenomenon that is now known as the Flynn effect. Now however scientists have noticed that this trend seems to be reversing. This was first noticed in 2004 but seems to have begun sometime in the mid-1970s. Since the decline in performance seems concentrated in deteriorating working memory the best guess so far is that it has something to do with the average age of the human population as a whole going up.
  • Now that dating websites have been around for a while, scientists have enough data to examine how they have changed society. This study based on US data found that the rise of online dating has resulted in an increase in interracial marriages as well as more stable marriages. The first result isn’t surprising as it is a natural result of people dating outside of their usual social circles and it is a bit of surprise that married couples who know each other online appear to have lower breakup rates.
  • Finally a bit of news that is closer to home. A Singaporean team has sequenced the genome of the durian and identified the genes that are responsible for its characteristic smell. They also announced that the genome of the specific variety they studied, the popular Musang King, consists of about 46,000 genes, nearly double the number in the human genome, and traced the fruit tree’s evolution back 65 million years. Apparently a distant relation of the durian tree is the cacao tree which produces chocolate.

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