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Science News 10/11/12 Physics, Medicine, Astrophysics

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Nobel Prize Winners in Physics
The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics have captured a particle for the first time. David Wineland and Serge Haroche, optics specialists, worked independently trapping particles at temperatures close to Absolute Zero to examine the quantum state for the first time.
Scientists cite many other applications for quantum research, including quantum computing, code-breaking, and more accurate GPS.
Also, notably, this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to stem cell researchers John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka.
Credit: AFP, AP

Washington State University scientists have developed a drug that restores neuronal connections in the brain that could restore cognitive function to people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Led by Joe Harding and Jay Wright, WSU researchers modified a blood pressure chemical and designed a drug that is 10 million times stronger than the chemical that is found naturally to promote new synapse formation, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.
The drug is so powerful that even old rats were nearly instantly able to accomplish a cognitive test like they were young again.
Credit: Washington State University, ahaf.org

Freezing water droplets have been shown to form mountain-like peaks and spout crystals resembling trees since water expands as it freezes.
These images show approximately 4 millimeter diameter water droplets as they freeze over 20 seconds.
Once the water is frozen, the tip attracts water vapor in the air, causing the crystals to grow on the surface like a scenic hill with a tree and plant-life.
Credit: Physics of Fluids, American Institute of Physics

McGill University and the Douglas Institute have announced the findings of a biological process that embeds social experience in brain DNA.
In childhood, social experiences have been shown to change the way the methyl group are marked.
Adversity in childhood has also been shown to affect the same group of genes.
Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, McGill University

Humans and birds may not be alone in the ability to learn songs.
A new study by Duke University has shown that mice not only sing ultrasonic songs, but they learn and sing new songs to court mates.
Credit: Duke University, PLoS ONE

Lawrence Livermore National Labratory scientists were surprised to find that — alongside gravity — plasma’s electromagnetic properties may help explain the formation of solar systems and other astrophysical bodies.
Counter-streaming ionized gas was found to amass coherently on its own, as shown in the image, forming large-scale electromagnetic fields.
LLNL Team Lead Hye-Sook Park said, quote:
This observation was completely unexpected since the plasmas move so quickly that they should freely stream past each other.
The team uses laser-driven plasma experiments to study the microphysics of plasma interaction and structure formation in order to learn more about astrophysical objects that are not able to be measured directly.
Credit: Nature, Nature Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Engineered Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis & Psoriasis
The University of Dundee has discovered an autoimmune enzyme that could be useful in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
Macrophages are immune system cells that defend the body against disease and clear dead cells from the system.
They signal the need for your body to produce inflammatory defenses when a threat is detected or signals the body to kick into anti-inflammatory mode when the coast is clear.
An enzyme called SIK has been discovered to help suppress the production of anti-inflammatory molecules.
Chronic inflammatory diseases could therefore be alleviated by turning off the function of SIK within the cell.
Researchers found that by afterward, they were able to spur the production of beneficial anti-inflammatory molecules to help patients.
Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Dundee

Planet Made of Diamond Twice the Size of Earth
Research led by Yale University scientists indicates that a planet twice the size of earth, orbiting a nearby planet, may be made nearly entirely of diamond.
The planet, 55 Cancri, has a radius twice as large as Earth’s and a mass 8 times greater.
It whips around its star in 18 hours, making a day on Earth longer than a year on 55 Cancri.
It’s also almost 4,000 degrees there, so Lil Wayne and Dr. Evil will have to put any plans to nab it on ice.

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