SciNews Oct 11, 2015

Tetanus, whale culture, Nobel news, and more on Mars – just what your students need to know this week.  This eclectic collection of current science news stories is brought to you by STAOBlog.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

 Tetanus, the Grinning Death. Discover

Infectious diseases have long been the companions of war and natural disaster. For those that barely escaped death in the calamities of antiquity, walking away with what appeared to be a light injury, the agony of a gangrenous wound or convulsive, back-breaking muscle spasms would deal an impending final blow. For centuries, a dreaded complication from an innocent blister or a bullet wound was the untreatable and catastrophic tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani. Read more…


How elephants crush cancer.  Science

Why elephants aren’t riddled with tumors poses a weighty problem for researchers. A new study shows that the animals harbor dozens of extra copies of one of the most powerful cancer-preventing genes. These bonus genes might enable elephants to weed out potentially cancerous cells before they can grow into tumors. Read more…


Sperm whales’ clicks suggest the animals have culture. Science News for Students

Sperm whales love to chitchat. They talk to each other in clicks. Now, scientists say, those clicks hold hints that the whales have culture. Explainer: What is a whale?

Culture is a way of life passed on from generation to generation through learning. “There’s a lot of debate if culture is exclusive to humans or if you can find it in animals, too,” says Maurício Cantor. He is a biologist at Canada’s Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Earlier research had suggested that dolphins, primates, birds and a few other wild animals have culture. Sperm whales should be added to that list, Cantor and his colleagues now argue in the September 8 Nature Communications. Read more…



13698187_s from 123rf

Chemistry Nobel: Lindahl, Modrich and Sancar win for DNA repair.  BBC News

Tomas Lindahl and Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar were named as the winners on Wednesday morning at a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Their work uncovered the mechanisms used by cells to repair damaged DNA – a fundamental process in living cells and important in cancer. Prof Lindahl is Swedish, but has worked in the UK for more than three decades. The prize money of eight million Swedish kronor (£634,000; $970,000) will be shared among the winners. Read more…


Scientist urges straight talk on research ahead of federal vote. Globe and Mail

Katie Gibbs has been in full campaign mode in recent weeks with a calendar full of public and media appearances. But the PhD biologist isn’t a candidate in the federal election nor is she endorsing one. Instead, she is focused on a single mission: improving the state and the role of science within the Canadian government. Read more…



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Neutrino ‘flip’ wins physics Nobel Prize.  BBC News

Neutrinos are ubiquitous subatomic particles with almost no mass and which rarely interact with anything else, making them very difficult to study. Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald led two teams which made key observations of the particles inside big underground instruments in Japan and Canada. They were named on Tuesday morning at a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Read more…


Entanglement: Gravity’s long-distance connection. Science News

When Albert Einstein scoffed at a “spooky” long-distance connection between particles, he wasn’t thinking about his general theory of relativity. Einstein’s century-old theory describes how gravity emerges when massive objects warp the fabric of space and time. Quantum entanglement, the spooky source of Einstein’s dismay, typically concerns tiny particles that contribute insignificantly to gravity. A speck of dust depresses a mattress more than a subatomic particle distorts space.  Read more…


Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About. Discover

NASA scientists were conferring today about a nearby planet that is shockingly similar to Earth. It is just 5% smaller in radius and 15% smaller in mass. It is almost the exact same age as our planet, and gets its warmth from an identical star. The only thing that’s a bit off is that it orbits a bit closer to its star than Earth does, so it receives nearly twice as much radiation. On the other, it also reflects away a lot of that radiation. Its theoretical (equilibrium) temperature is just below freezing, so with a little natural greenhouse warming it would be quite an inviting place. Read more…


Human Missions to Mars Will Look Completely Different from The Martian. Scientific American

Landing in U.S. theaters today, Ridley Scott’s The Martian is being acclaimed as one of the most realistic portrayals of human space exploration ever filmed. Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, the film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a wisecracking botanist-turned-astronaut marooned on Mars after being accidentally left behind by his crewmates. Faced with extremely limited food and supplies, and with any hope of rescue more than a year and millions of kilometers away, early on Watney lays out his stark options for subsistence in the film’s most memorable line of dialogue: Either “science the shit out of this,” or die. Read more…


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