Science!: Eeyore, Baguettes and Babies


Nanotechnology for Cancer Treatments

Most cancer therapies begin or end with dosages of chemotherapy – strong chemicals that target and destroy cancer cells – as well as healthy cells. Chemotherapy has toxic side effects; with results ranging from loss of hair, heightened susceptibility to other sicknesses, and other side effects.

Researchers have been looking into technologies that could avoid these toxic side effects, and they may have just stumbled upon the golden ticket. The golden nanocage ticket, that is.

A team led by Younan Xia of Washington University have developed “nanocages,” cages made of gold that hold a specific amount of drugs which only release on demand. Each cage is cube-shaped, with tiny holes at each corner. The cage is filled with chemotherapy drugs or bactericides, which are kept inside by polymer strands attached to the outside of the cage which cover the holes.

The polymer strands can be open or closed whenever heat is applied. To target these nanocages within a body, a near-infrared light is used, which can penetrate through several layers of body tissue to activate the polymer’s phase change. The polymer strands then open and release the drugs near the cancerous tissues, providing optimal beneficial effects of the drugs and minimizing its side effects. Researchers claim that they can engineer the cages to stick only to tumors, which would be helpful in eliminating the more toxic effects of chemotherapy which courses throughout the body and attacks healthy and damaged cells at will.

These “smart cages” have been tested in two scenarios. In one scenario, the cages were loaded with a common chemotherapy drug and released near breast cancer cells growing on a plastic plate. The breast cancer cells were destroyed completely. Additionally, the nanocages have been loaded with enzymes which break open cell walls of bactera; the study was used to kill bacteriums which normally reside in our mouths and throats.

Source: Discover


Babies Learn Language in the Womb

The next time you’re woken up by a screaming child in the wee hours of the morn’, recall this one fact: that baby is crying in a very specific melody that echoes their mother’s native tongue, and they learned this trick while in the womb. Of course, it’s still crying, so go…change its diaper, or give it a banana, or whatever you do to make it be quiet.

Babies are able to memorize sounds from the womb during the last trimester of pregnancy; which is why newborns tend to prefer their mother’s voice over others and can recognize emotional inflections in speech. Kathleen Wermke and other researchers from the University of Würzburg in Germany found that this period also influences the specific sounds and cries newborns make.

Researchers recorded the cries of 60 newborns, 30 from French-speaking mothers and 30 from German speaking mothers. They found that the baby’s cries were different, depending on their mother’s country of origin. French newborns cried with a rising melody, and German babies cried with a falling melody. According to Wermke, the baby’s cries are consistent with the characteristic differences between the two languages.

“Newborns are probably highly motivated to imitate their mother’s behavior in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding.” states Wermke,” Because melody contour may be the only aspect of their mother’s speech that newborns are able to imitate, this might explain why we found melody contour imitation at that early age.”

Source: Science Daily



LHC Bombed With Baguette

Seriously, LHC. Maybe you should take a hint. From bad solder joints, to coolant leaks, to last minute safety feature installations, it sure does seem like there’s some otherworldly force preventing this Big Bang recreation from taking off. And now, a bird, clearly sent from the future to warn us, has dropped a baguette into your inner workings in an attempt to postpone your experiments even further.

That’s correct. A bird flying over the LHC, located near the Franco-Swiss border, dropped a piece of baguette on an outdoor part of the collider, which caused overheating in other parts of the accelerator.

The particle accelerator was undergoing tests in order to meet its proposed start date later this month, but the testing was cut short by a bird with a baguette bomb.

Christine Sutton, a CERN spokeswoman stated that the bread was found at a compensating capacitor, where parts of the electricity supply enter the collider from above ground. This caused power to be cut to one of the cooling plants, which raised the temperatures of the collider by more than 3C. Since the magnets need to be kept at a very specific temperature, this caused them to shut down automatically.

The LHC is still on course to begin its experiments later this month, but I’m willing to take bets on what’s going to stop it this time.

Source: Discover



Eeyore Had it Right

Feeling grumpy? In a bad mood? Feel like it’s always raining, and only on you? Put down the Prozac and suck it all in. Sunshine ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. New research has shown that feeling grumpy can help you make better decisions – and it will certainly cost less than an EmoBowl.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales asked volunteers to focus on either positive or negative events in their life. Next, they asked the participants to perform a few different tasks, such as debating the truth of urban legends or providing accurate accounts of events.

Eeyore and his ilk outperformed the Sunshine Happy FunTime kids by far – they made fewer mistakes and were clearer communicators. Professor Forgas states that a “mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style”

However, being a happy-go-lucky, Tigger-type has its perks too. People in positive moods have heightened creativity, cooperate with their peers better, and rely on mental shortcuts. Those in poor moods tend to be more attentive, careful thinkers. So, depending on which traits you’ll need for the task ahead, you’ll need to choose between listening to The Cure or Britney Spears to promote whichever mood will best serve your interests.

Source: BBC



As many Escapist users pointed out, the artificial black hole created by the Chinese scientists in last week’s story was not a real black hole. As ironlenny put it: “A black hole is a region where gravity is so strong that it causes space/time to curve back on itself.” The metamaterial in this experiment distorts light, and traps it indefinitely inside a “maze” of sorts, but gravity is not responsible for the distortion. I meant to make this more clear in the article, but thanks for pointing it out, guys!

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