SciNews January 18, 2016

Autism hiding in fold in brain, Black Death never really died out, food allergies present at birth, new state of matter, toxic jewelry, gravitational waves can’t be found, another shuttle to ISS, clues to galactic hit-and-run – 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

Is autism hiding in a fold of the brain? Science Daily

Scientists have identified a cerebral marker specific to autism that can be detected by MRI and is present as from the age of two years. The abnormality thus detected consists in a less deep fold in Broca’s area, a region of the brain specialized in language and communication, functions that are impaired in autistic patients. This discovery may assist in the earlier diagnosis and management of these patients. Read more…

Black Death lurked for centuries into modern era, study finds. Globe and Mail

“This city, whose crowded streets we could barely pass through … is now delivered up to solitude, to silence, to indigence, to desolation, to death.”

So said Henri de Belsunce, Bishop of Marseille, when describing the effects of a plague epidemic that devastated the French port between 1720 and 1723. It was one of the last major outbreaks of the disease to strike Europe and it was a particularly bad one, claiming an estimated 100,000 lives – half in Marseille itself and the rest in neighbouring cities and the countryside of Provence. Read more…

Signs of food allergies may be present at birth. Science News

Some babies are born with immune cells primed to cause food allergies, a new study suggests.

Umbilical cord blood of Australian infants who developed food allergies was loaded with overactive versions of immune cells called monocytes, researchers report in the Jan. 13 Science Translational Medicine. Those overexcited cells may push other immune cells to become allergy-causing cells, immunology researcher Yuxia Zhang of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues discovered. The findings may help researchers better understand how food allergies develop and to devise strategies to prevent these potentially life-threatening immune reactions. Read more…


13698187_s from 123rf

Strange New State of Hydrogen Created. Scientific American

By crushing Earth’s lightest element with mind-boggling pressures, scientists have revealed an entirely new state of matter: phase V hydrogen. The squished hydrogen is a precursor to a state of matter first proposed in the 1930s, called atomic solid metallic hydrogen. When cooled to low enough temperatures, hydrogen (which on Earth is usually found as a gas) can become a solid; at high enough pressures, when the element solidifies, it turns into a metal. Planetary scientists think the interior of Jupiter is largely made of the stuff. Read more…

Toxic jewelry: Cadmium found in Ardene, Aldo products. CBC

Canadians who buy low-cost jewelry from popular fashion chains may be wearing products made with cadmium, a heavy metal that can be particularly toxic for kids. A CBC Marketplace investigation reveals some Ardene and Aldo Accessories jewelry manufactured in China contains thousands of times more cadmium than Health Canada says is safe for children. Read more…


18685938_s from 123rf

The Waves No One Can Find. Scientific American

You can find lockers everywhere in Japan, so I was naturally expecting to find some at Tokyo’s Hiroo Station. It was something of a shock when there weren’t any. Not only did their non-existence mean I had to lug my suitcase through the rain, but it seemed an inauspicious omen given that I was en route to a meeting about a hundred-million-dollar attempt to detect something that physicists are sure must exist, but haven’t found. Read more…

Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

NASA adds 3rd International Space Station supplier. CBC

NASA is adding a third company to its short list of space station suppliers, a Nevada business that will bring back a mini version of the shuttle. On Thursday, NASA announced Sierra Nevada Corp. will join SpaceX and Orbital ATK in launching cargo to the International Space Station. These flights, yet to be ordered up, will begin in 2019 and run through 2024. Read more…

Clues left at a galactic hit-and-run. Science News

Ripples in the Milky Way’s outer layers of gas were the first clue. Now, scientists suspect they have found a small, faint galaxy that brushed past our galaxy a few hundred million years ago. This dwarf galaxy doesn’t have many stars, but it is rich in dark matter, the invisible but predominant source of mass in the universe. Sukanya Chakrabarti, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, reported the findings January 8 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Read more…


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