Community News for Goffstown, Dunbarton, New Boston & Weare, NH

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Science reference with Earl Wajenberg - 8 February 2012

Addiction-prone  (ScienceNOW)

Researchers have examined the brains of the siblings of addicts, and find that the structures associated with self-control are smaller in them.  (Presumably they are in the actual addicts, but it's hard to tell since the addiction could have messed with the brain.)  So this suggests that being prone to addiction is hereditary, at least sometimes.  But those siblings were not themselves addicts, so it also raises the question of how they worked around the problem when their addicted brothers or sisters did not.


Dental ecology  (Discover Magazine)

We all know that bacteria living in our mouths cause tooth decay.  But there are hundreds of different species, and now it seems that only one of them is the culprit.  Get rid of that one decay-causing species and you halt tooth decay, if an interesting new study (albeit with a small sample size) pans out.  Furthermore, the benign bacteria crowd in and help prevent reinfection.


Quick fix for paralysis  (New Scientist)

Neurologists have developed a method for repairing paralyzing nerve damage in rats.  The recovery becomes evident in a few days.  But the method has to be applied quickly, too.  As the body tries to heal the severed nerves, it seals off the separated ends, which is what makes rejoining impossible.  The new method prevents the sealing, then joins the severed nerves surgically, then lets normal healing proceed.


How massage works  (Science News)

We all know massage makes aching muscles feel better, but now we know more about why.  The massage reduces inflammation in the muscles.  This not only reduces pain, it opens the way for the muscles to build themselves up after exercise.  The inflammation study also shows that the benefit of massage is physical, not just a psychological effect.

3-D cloaking  (BBC)


Various kinds of "invisibility cloaks" have been around for a few years now, but the latest advance in the field is a block of "metamaterial" (artificial materials with properties not found in nature) that cloaks a solid object when viewed from any angle.  However, it only works in the microwave range.  Perfect for radar stealth, though...


Un-extinct tortoise  (Science Daily)

A species of Galapagos tortoise, thought to be extinct, turns out to survive in a remote corner of the islands.

 


16 Cygni  (ScienceNOW)

16 Cygni is a triple-star system 69 light-years from us.  It's turning out to be an interesting one.  It consists of two yellow suns and a dim red one.  Both yellow suns are now known to have planets.  Also, the system is 2 billion years older than our own.


Triple star with planet  (Discovery Magazine)

And here's a very similar triple star: two yellow stars and a little red one.  Only the interesting thing about this one is that the little red star has a planet in its habitable zone – the right distance to have liquid water on its surface.  Not that we know anything yet about its atmosphere or surface gravity.


Planetary electrons  (New Scientist)

The image of electrons orbiting an atomic nucleus like little planets is easily recognizable, but it's almost a cartoon.  In regular atoms, the electrons form a haze of cloud around the nucleus.  But Rydberg atoms are huge (for atoms): half a millimeter wide.  They are so big, their electrons localize and really do orbit around the nucleus as planets do about a sun.  


Undiscovered planet  (Science News)

Back in 2008, astronomers thought they had captured a direct image of a planet orbiting the star Formalhaut, 25 light-years away.  But a second look fails to find the planet.  Astronomers are wondering if the "planet" was a background star or a bit of gas cloud.


Moon fires  (Science News)

Over the years, astronomers have seen odd flashes of fire on the moon.  Fire.  On the airless moon.  What?  A new theory has it that the flares are from bits of ultra-hot material kicked up by meteor falls.
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