SciNews Sept 4, 2016

Staph infections, placentas, battery explosions and distant planets – what a perfect way to kick off science discussions on the first day of school.  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

Staph infections? The nose knows how to fight them.  Science News for Students

The human nose isn’t exactly prime real estate for bacteria. It has limited space and food for microbes to eat. Yet more than 50 species of bacteria can live there. One of them is Staphylococcus aureus, best known simply as staph. This bug can cause serious skin, blood and heart infections. In hospitals, it can morph into a superbug called MRSA that’s extremely hard to treat. Now, scientists have found that the human nose can hold not only staph, but also its natural enemy.

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Placenta in females, muscle mass in males: Dual heritage of a virus. Science Daily

It was already known that genes inherited from ancient retroviruses are essential to the placenta in mammals. Scientists have now revealed a new chapter in this astonishing story: these genes of viral origin may also be responsible for the more developed muscle mass seen in males.

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13698187_s from 123rf

Oxygen-rich air emerged super early, new data show.  Science News for Students

Those tiny puffs of oxygen have been trapped for some 815 million years in rock salt. After carefully crushing the salt, researchers measured the chemical makeup of the air that had been trapped inside it. Oxygen made up 10.9 percent of the air back then, these data showed. This early boost in air’s oxygen occurred around 150 million years before animals showed up in the fossil record. Scientists had thought that oxygen levels would not be that high for another 100 million to 200 million years.

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Samsung stops Galaxy Note 7 sales after battery explosions. CBC

Samsung suspended sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on Friday, just two weeks after the flagship phone’s launch, after finding batteries of some of the gadgets exploded while they were charging.

Koh Dong-jin, president of Samsung’s mobile business, said customers who already bought Note 7s will be able to swap them for new smartphones, regardless of when they purchased them.

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Our eyes can see single specks of light.  Science News for Students

For decades, researchers have wondered just how little light the eye can see. They now appear to have the answer. And it’s surprising. Our eyes can detect a single speck — what scientists call a photon or light particle, a new study suggests. If confirmed, this may allow scientists to use the human eye to test some basic features of physics on the super-small scale.

The new study also showed that the human eye detects single photons better when it has just seen another photon. This was “an unexpected phenomenon,” says Alipasha Vaziri. He is a physicist at Rockefeller University in New York City. Physicists study the nature and properties of matter and energy. Vaziri and colleagues described the results of their study July 19 in Nature Communications.

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Earth and Space Science12693495_s from 123rf

Earth-like world spotted around star nearest our solar system. Globe and Mail

Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star that is nearest to our own solar system – a tantalizingly close find that presents an ideal target for further study and an attractive destination for a proposed interstellar mission many years from now.

Measurements suggest the newfound planet is a rocky world with at least 1.3-times Earth’s mass. Based on its orbital characteristics, it could maintain water at its surface in liquid form, a precondition for life as we know it – providing it has an atmosphere.

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Juno transmits first intimate snapshots of Jupiter. Science News

Swirling clouds blanket Jupiter’s northern and southern poles in the first closeup images of the planet taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Such intimate views of Jupiter have never been seen before.

Juno snapped a shot of the gas giant’s northern side in an August 27 flyby, from a distance of 195,000 kilometers. The prominent bands that ring Jupiter’s middle fade at the poles, replaced with hurricane-like whorls. The poles are nearly invisible from Earth, making a specialized space mission like Juno necessary to capture such rare images.

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