SciNews Nov 19, 2015

Elephant trunks, obese children, gas giants in the solar system, wandering nerves and tapeworms – these goodies are just a few of the themes in today’s eclectic collection of SciNews.  Share these stories with your students and get them excited about science.

SciNews is published twice weekly. Stay tuned for more.

7308778_s from 123rfBiology

Elephants may use trunks like ‘leaf blowers’ to obtain inaccessible food. Science Daily

Two captive elephants blast air through their trunks to grasp hard-to-reach food, suggests an initial study. This behavior, studied in a zoo population of Asian elephants, is altered according to the distance to the food, which may indicate advanced mental ability and awareness of their physical environment. Read more…


Tapeworm Spreads Deadly Cancer to Human. Scientific American

A Colombian man’s lung tumors turned out to have an extremely unusual cause: The rapidly growing masses weren’t actually made of human cells, but were from a tapeworm living inside him, according to a report of the case. Read more…


Signs of cardiac disease start early in obese children. Science News

Obese children as young as 8 years old may experience worrisome changes to their hearts, according to data presented November 10 at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions.

While the study was small, involving 20 obese children, it found that 40 percent of the kids had enlarged hearts, a sign that the organ is under strain. The study is one of the few to use MRI to get a close look at cardiac muscle, said Linyuan Jing of Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa. Her team’s data add to a disturbing number of studies suggesting that children who are overweight or obese could be setting themselves up for lifelong cardiac problems (SN Online: 5/21/12).  Read more…

Viva vagus: Wandering nerve could lead to range of therapies. Science News

With outposts in nearly every organ and a direct line into the brain stem, the vagus nerve is the nervous system’s superhighway. About 80 percent of its nerve fibers — or four of its five “lanes” — drive information from the body to the brain. Its fifth lane runs in the opposite direction, shuttling signals from the brain throughout the body.   Read more…



13698187_s from 123rf

Three of Earth’s largest extinctions may have been caused by loss of essential element.  ScienceMag

Concentrations of selenium, a vital element for many organisms at the base of today’s ocean food chain, dropped substantially in seawater in advance of three of Earth’s largest die-offs, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed the levels of various trace elements in hundreds of samples of carbon-rich shales that had been deposited in oxygen-poor regions of the ocean surrounding ancient continents during the past 3.5 billion years. Read more…

Plastic trash travels up to Arctic waters. Science News for Students

“We often think that the filthy habits we have where we live don’t go as far as the Arctic,” says Erik van Sebille. He studies Earth’s climate and oceans at Imperial College London in England. He was not involved in the new studies but says the data show the Arctic is no longer a vast, pristine wilderness. It is becoming trashy. This is not surprising, he says, but very disappointing. Read more…

CO2 Levels Hit Record High for 30th Year in a Row. Scientific American

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2014 and the relentless fuelling of climate change is endangering the planet for future generations, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday. Read more…



18685938_s from 123rf

Boom! Sounding out the enemy. Science News for Students

After two years of fighting, the British soldiers stationed in France during World War I thought they had seen everything. This was the “Great War.” And it was different than any in the past. For the first time, there were tanks that rolled across farms, through barbed wire and over trenches. Airplanes were providing a new way to spy on the enemy. Poison gas was killing soldiers by the thousands. Read more…


Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

Bad News for Terraforming: Mars’s Atmosphere Is Lost in Space. Scientific American

The hopes of turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet have just taken a hit. Science-fiction writers have long dreamed of terraforming Mars—changing the frigid Red Planet’s climate to make it more suitable for human colonization. One potential way to do this involves freeing lots of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the Martian crust back into the atmosphere. Read more…

Pluto continues to deliver surprises. Science News

A wide variety of landscapes, ongoing surface transformations and a family of wildly spinning moons are among the riddles reported by the New Horizons mission team November 9 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.  Pluto is like a graduate course in planetary science,” mission leader Alan Stern said at a news briefing. “It’s going to take the larger planetary science community many years to digest all this.” Read more…

Who kicked a giant planet out of our Solar System 4 billion years ago? We’re looking at you, Jupiter. U of T Bulletin

The existence of a fifth giant gas planet at the time of the Solar System’s formation was first proposed in 2011. Now astrophysicists at U of T suggest that you can blame Jupiter for the cosmic rejection. Read more…






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