Excerpts from science, technology, environment and health reports from around the web.
NASA pics reveal huge rose hurricane on Saturn
The US space agency has released fresh pictures of a hurricane with a 2,000 km wide eye locked over Saturn’s north pole and spinning at around four times the speed of earthly hurricane winds.
The pictures, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, show the huge hurricane confined in one spot inside a hexagon-shaped weather pattern.
“We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth,” Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said in a NASA press release.
Nanowire device may help tackle malaria drug resistance
Malaria treatment could be revolutionised by a smartphone-sized nanotech diagnostic device that can tell from a drop of blood whether or not a particular treatment is likely to be effective, say its developers. [http://www.scidev.net/en/health/malaria/news/nanowire-device-may-help-tackle-malaria-drug-resistance.html]
One of the major challenges that malaria poses to science is the disease-causing parasite's ability to resist treatment. "The malaria parasite seems to be able to evolve," says Sanjeev Krishna, leader of the Nanomal Consortium led by St. George's at the University of London, which is developing the diagnostic with a €5.2 million (around US$6.8 million) grant from the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research.
There are concerns that current front-line therapies, based on WHO-recommended artemisinin combination therapies, could soon become ineffective.
World’s oldest and stickiest lab study ready for drop of excitement [
In terms of output, Queensland University's pitch drop study – the world's oldest laboratory experiment – has been stunningly low. Only eight drops have emerged from the lump of pitch installed in the university's physics building foyer in 1927. Watching paint dry looks exhilarating by comparison.
But excitement is now rising over the experiment, which was set up to calculate the viscosity of the world's stickiest substance, pitch, which has been found to be at least 230 billion times more viscous than water. According to Professor John Mainstone, who has run the experiment since the 1960s, a ninth drop looks set to emerge from the pitch block in the very near future.
Scientists discover ridiculously small insect
A pair of scientists has discovered a new species of tiny insect, a miniscule wasp that lives in the forests of Costa Rica. Named Tinkerbella nana, after the Peter Pan character, the species measures no more than 250 micrometers in length. By comparison, the average human hair is about 100 micrometers wide.
Brain implants could restore the ability to form memories
Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, envisions a day in the not too distant future when a patient with severe memory loss can get help from an electronic implant in people whose brains have suffered damage from Alzheimer’s, stroke, or injury, disrupted neuronal networks often prevent long-term memories from forming. For more than two decades, Berger has designed silicon chips to mimic the signal processing that those neurons do when they’re functioning properly—the work that allows us to recall experiences and knowledge for more than a minute. Ultimately, Berger wants to restore the ability to create long-term memories by implanting chips like these in the brain.
The idea is so audacious and so far outside the mainstream of neuroscience that many of his colleagues, says Berger, think of him as being just this side of crazy. “They told me I was nuts a long time ago,” he says with a laugh, sitting in a conference room that abuts one of his labs. But given the success of recent experiments carried out by his group and several close collaborators, Berger is shedding the loony label and increasingly taking on the role of a visionary pioneer.
Archaeologists uncover hundreds of mysterious orbs in ancient temple
In news that will likely delight Apollo 11 deniers, Roswell frequenters, and Illuminati enthusiasts alike, archaeologists have discovered hundreds of mysterious, once-metallic spheres buried deep beneath an ancient pyramid in Mexico City. And we have absolutely no idea what they're for.
Described by Jorge Zavala, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, as an "unprecedented discovery," the orbs have called one of the most important temples in an ancient, pre-Hispanic city home for the past 1,800 years.
Space junk needs to be removed from Earth’s orbit
Space junk such as debris from rockets must be removed from the Earth’s orbit to avoid crashes that could cost satellite operators millions of euros and knock out mobile and GPS networks, the European Space Agency said.
At the current density of debris, there will be an in-orbit collision about every five years, however research presented at a conference hosted by ESA in Germany showed that an increase in such junk made more collisions likely in the future.Five to 10 large objects need to be collected from space a year to help cut down on smashes and stem the risk of fragments being sprayed into space that could cause more damage, it said.