Browsing: Science

With the mix of family, presents, religion, Christmas stories, and lots (and lots) of food, Christmas may not seem the most scientific time. But what better way to get in the festive spirit than to see some of the science behind the most wonderful time of the year?  Speaking of ‘the festive spirit’, science can tell us why some of us love the holiday season so much. When studying MRI scans of self-confessed ‘Christmas-lovers’ compared to ‘Christmas-haters’, scientists have found different activity in different areas of the brain. One such example is the premotor cortex, which is more active in…

28 British Explorers have been honoured in Antarctica thanks to their contributions to polar exploration and advancement of polar sciences. Among them is ex-Bangor University professor David N. Thomas, who lends his name to Thomas’ Glacier.  These explorers will give their names to 28 locations across Antarctica including mountains, glaciers, and lakes. Before now, these locations were known only by their coordinates. The naming celebrates 200 years since the continent was discovered, which means the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee decided it was a rightful time to honour such a large group of people in one go. The names commemorate those…

China will launch the Chang’e-5 probe on Tuesday the 24th of November, an unmanned spacecraft which will be the first probe to bring back samples for over 40 years. Chang’e-5, named after the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, will land on a different part of the Moon which has been previously studied. It will collect data and samples from the “Ocean of Storms”, which has been carefully chosen by geologists to more carefully study the evolution of the Moon. In previous missions, collections focused on the “Sea of Crises”; NASA’s Apollo missions between 1969-1972 collected 382 kg of samples from…

From July 2020 to November 2020, there have been over 40 reported ‘attacks’ on fishing boats by a pod of rogue killer whales.  The most recent event in this series involved British sailor David Smith, who was sailing the coast of Portugal on a trip from France to Gibraltar when his crew spotted the orca. The pod began to ram into the rudder of the boat, and David Smith feared they would dislodge the rudder stock, which could lead to the killer whales breaking the boat and inevitably causing it to sink. In a conversation with the Portugese coast guard,…

Every year, humans produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic. 50% of this is classified as ‘single-use plastics’- like straws, plastic cutlery, and shopping bags- and more than 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. Scientists are constantly looking for ways to reduce the plastic problem through new biodegradable plastics, but the solution could potentially lie with plastivores- organisms which can consume and digest plastics.  One of the most well-known examples of a plastivore is the Waxworm. Waxworms are the caterpillar larvae of the wax moth (sometimes known as the bee moth), and farmers generally…

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced recently that the early data from their clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine is “more than 90% effective in preventing the disease”.  Developed alongside German drug manufacturing company BioNTech, the vaccine injects RNA from the virus into the body, which is then stimulated to make the characteristic ‘spike’ protein of the virus. The body’s immune system then produces antibodies and activates T-cells as it would in the event of an infection. If the person does then get sick with covid-19, the immune system will already have the antibodies ready to fight it. This vaccine…

The list of Nobel Prize winners for 2020 was released recently for those who have made outstanding and significant contributions in their respective fields.  Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine: This year the award for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice. They are virologists who between them have contributed a combined one and a half centuries to science, and they have been awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, and their contribution to the global health problem that is blood-borne hepatitis. They discovered this…

NASA have recently confirmed that there is evidence of water on the surface of the moon. Up until the 1990’s it was assumed that the surface of the moon was completely dry, until probes indicated regions of ice in craters on the moon. Now they have definitive evidence of water, thanks to their Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia).  A team of NASA scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US have measured the wavelength of light reflecting off the moon’s surface, and have discovered the chemical signature for water, showing unambiguously that it’s there. They also believe that…

As we edge towards Halloween, many people turn to horror movies to get them in the festive spirit. Some people love this genre of movie, whereas others spend it hiding behind their fingers/the sofa/ under a blanket to avoid having to spend a week jumping at every slight bump in the house. So why do some people love horror movies so much – and why do others hate them? Part of the reason could be due to the psychological trait known as ‘sensation seeking’, where individuals seek out situations that cause novel or intense emotions. Those who score high on…

Space travel is expensive. It costs several thousand dollars per pound of weight in transport, as well as roughly $11,000 per astronaut per day for life support systems, $22,000 per day for crew supplies, and around $42 per hour for power. The process has to be made more efficient wherever possible to limit some of the costs. This means getting creative with building materials as scientists look to set up a permanent base on the moon. Transporting huge amounts of building materials would be financially draining and require many hours of careful planning to make sure not one screw is…

Photo Credit: Marco Verch According to the biomedical research charity The Wellcome Trust, there are 321 potential vaccines for COVID-19 in development around the world, with 32 of those in clinical trials, and at least 15 in human trial stages. Although vaccines typically take up to a decade to develop, test, and manufacture; researchers have collaborated to streamline this process as much as possible, meaning there could be an effective vaccine in as little as a year. The UK has already ordered 340 million doses of a completed vaccine from 6 different manufacturers: Oxford University & AstraZeneca; BioNTech-Pfizer; Valneva; GSK-Sanofi;…

Astronomers are considering the possibility that there is life in the clouds of Venus after telescopes detected a gas which they can’t explain.  Astronomers from the university of Cardiff have published a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy showing that there are high concentrations of the gas phosphine in the cloud of Venus (roughly 10-20 parts in every billion molecules), as well as the accompanying investigations they’ve carried out to demonstrate that this molecule could have a natural origin. Phosphine is a molecule which is typically associated with feaces, rotting microbes, or microbes living in the gut (like in penguins)…

Scientists from Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre are working with North Wales company Pennotec to produce a modified chemical found naturally in crab shells. The chemical Chitosan is thought to have long-lasting, anti-viral properties, and could potentially be applied to personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers from the coronavirus, and to reduce the risks of contamination. It is a polymer made of modified Chitin, found in the exoskeletons of arthropods and the shells of shellfish. Once the modified chitosan-based chemical has been fully developed, it will be tested in the lab for its effectiveness against viruses, including the coronavirus. Dr…

On the 13th of July, Boris Johnson announced that face coverings will be mandatory in shops in England from the 24th of July in order to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). This has been a requirement in shops in Scotland since the 10th of July and has been compulsory on public transport in England, Scotland, and Wales since as early as the 15th of June. In Northern Ireland, masks are also compulsory on public transport, with circumstances in indoor spaces being considered and ‘under review’.  So how do face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19? COVID-19 spreads from person…

A consortium led by Bangor University has been awarded nearly half a million pounds for research into monitoring Covid-19 outbreaks using sewage. Dead fragments of the virus’ genetic material can be found in faeces up to two weeks before symptoms appear, meaning mass testing could predict outbreaks before they appear. “I’m delighted that the ground-breaking environmental monitoring work, which combines different areas of expertise at our College of Environmental Science & Engineering, is to contribute to the nation’s vital work to protect communities against Covid-19 and further outbreaks of coronavirus and other infectious viruses.” said Professor Iwan Davies, Vice-Chancellor of…

We are social creatures. The popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have shown how much we want to show off and share with others. We aren’t the first to do this though, as new research has uncovered a social network in Lesotho from 33,000 years ago. Researchers were initially puzzled when they found prehistoric ornamental necklace beads made of ostrich eggs, around 1,000 km from the nearest ostriches. So how did they get there? 33,000 years ago, humans lived in tribal communities. It was important for them to maintain a relationship with their neighbours; this…

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