Sunday, 21 December 2014

News Round-up

Pour yourself a Monday-morning coffee, wipe that crusty bit of sleep from your weary eyes, and plop yourself down in as comfy an office chair as you can find. It's time for a round-up of the most talked-about bio-news of last week!

[caption id="attachment_109" align="alignleft" width="180"]Pausing for a selfie, of course. These modern robots are slaves to social media. Sniffing out organics. Curiosity trundles along Gale crater. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_120" align="alignleft" width="338"]He's singing "Born in the USA" by The Boss, obv. American crow. Image by Walter Siegmund. CC 3.0[/caption]



Martian Methane May Be Microbes

Methane detected on Mars by the Curiosity Rover may be a byproduct of microscopic life on the Red Planet. Curiosity measured several spikes in levels of methane, an organic molecule, in the atmosphere since its arrival on Mars. Read more on this here, on The Guardian and in Nature.

Crows Compare Like With Like

Crows are the first non-ape animal to compare similarities just as we make simple analogies. The birds were trained to match shapes on cards for a reward before being presented with an analogous form of the correct card. More than three quarters of the time the birds chose the correct card. Read more on IFLScience and Science Daily.

Painkiller Ibuprofen Boosts Longevity

Common painkiller, ibuprofen, has been shown to increase the lifespan of some organisms. Yeast, nematode worms, and fruit flies were given human doses scaled down for each organism and all three showed extended lifespans. Yeast cells lived 17% longer, while the worms and flies gained an additional 10% on their average lifespan. Read more on Science, IFLScience, and Science Daily.

Acid-Bath Stem Cells Don't Wash

Claims of pluripotent stem cell creation via a simple acid bath that were published and later retracted have resulted in the resignation of Dr Haruko Obokata, who was on the first study. Her team were given time to reproduce the results claimed in the paper but last week, after months of attempts, failed to do so. See more on Nature and New Scientist.

Autism and Air Pollution - A New Link

Autism, a behavioural disorder affecting learning and emotional development, has been linked to exposure of expectant mothers to fine particles (such as those found in soot and diesel fumes). Precise causes of autism are unknown but the identification of factors that increase risk of autism may help uncover the machinations behind this broad-spectrum disorder. Read more on Science Nutshell and IFLScience.

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