Science and Engineering in Derby and Derbyshire
This week is a round up of some of the science news stories you might have missed…
This week many teenagers were approaching envelopes with the kind of fear usually reserved for trying to get a cup over a really hairy spider. It is of course A-level results week for students in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and even far flung places like New Zealand. Amongst the important newsworthy information like pass rate and the number of attractive girls in really tiny skirts gleefully wafting the envelope that can fit in one photo, it emerged that the sciences have had something of a resurrection. BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh reports on how the number of students studying Physics at A-level has increased, and some possible reasons for it.
If you are a dog owner you have no doubt wondered why when he gets wet he feels so compelled to share that wetness with you, and anything else in a two metre radius. Dogs love a good shake, but why? Alexis Madrigal explains some of the evolutionary mechanisms behind this endearing/irritating habit in American magazine The Atlantic.
Parkinson’s Disease is currently a disease which doctors manage rather than treat, Le Monde reporter Flore Vasseur explains how mathematical models and algorithms are being developed as diagnostic tools. By looking at the patterns of people’s speech Max Little and his team have found that voice patterns are an inexpensive and accessible means of early diagnosis, you can read more on that here (in French). And links to some of Dr Little’s other uses of signal processing in diagnostic applications are here .
Nature reports on the rather depressing news that key species such as tapirs and giant anteaters have been lost from Brazilian forests which threatens the survival of many other species . However, in more cheering news they report on advances in prostaglandin drugs which may reduce side effects and potentially speed up development time.
For insect fans Nature also has a piece of research on aphids with chloroplasts, yes those chloroplasts that you find in plants. These particular aphids are already fairly odd little chaps as they are green when cold, and orange when comfortably warm, but the newly found chloroplasts may suggest a more complicated evolution. You can read the paper here .
Staying with all things small the BBC reports on how those hard working Formica may have contributed to South Africa’s Western Cape being so ecologically diverse. The ants are believed to have dispersed the seeds which helped the many different plants move into the area, you can read more here .
Finally Daisy Yuhas, writing in Scientific American, reports how neuroscientists have discovered a brain cleaning system which might be a route to dealing with neurological conditions.
Have you read any science news stories you think people may have missed? Or something you think everyone should read? Let us know in the comments