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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

This week in science:1/30/14 – 2/4/14

Rock, gas preserve fossil beds

The Yixian and Jiufotang fossil beds in northeast China are known for having produced some of the most well-preserved plant and animal fossils ever found. The cause of such pristine preservation is now expected to be because of pyroclastic flows, which are high-speed rivers of rock and gas. It was the presence of sediment and cracks in the fossil bones that prompted a team led by Baoyu Jiang of Nanjing University to publish their findings in the Nature Communications Journal.


Percentage of global smokers decrease, but news not all good

A study from the University of Washington published in Journal of the American Medical Association broke down smoking percentage by country and gender from 1980 to 2012. On a global scale, male smoking dropped from 41 percent to 31 percent, and 11 percent to 6 percent for females. However, due to worldwide population growth, the total number of smokers rose from 721 million in 1980 to 967 million in 2012. The study also found that men smoked more than women in almost every country.


Acid creates stem cells

A new type of stem cell has been created through the method of subjecting cells to acid baths, or other methods of stress. These new stem cells have been named STAP cells, for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, and have been tested on mice white blood cells. These STAP cells are ultra-flexible and can grow into any type of tissue. The research team, including Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology and Harvard Medical School, also used these cells to grow an entire mouse fetus.


Cold clouds mean no new stars

When gas clouds collapse, molecularly the cloud’s hydrogen atoms are fused into helium; the heat of this fusion reaction is what allows for scientists to easily locate them. A team at the University of Waterloo led by astrophysicists Michel Fich and Gopika Sreenilayam were searching for colder gas clouds. They did so by looking for dust particles within the clouds, which are much larger than gas particles, and it was in this way that they located 20 gas clouds that are far colder than normal. The clouds’ center temperatures ranged from eight to 20 degrees Kelvin (or around -450 degrees fahrenheit), and at these temperatures fusion cannot occur. Thus, the clouds cannot collapse. The team’s findings, published in The Astronomical Journal, may help to further explain what prevents gas clouds from collapsing.



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