Bangor University Students’ Union’s English Language Newspaper ...more

Browsing: Science

You might have thought that in this age of MRI scanners and keyhole surgery, we’d know about the anatomy of the human body from the head right down to the tips of your toes. It turns out, though, that we didn’t know it quite as well as we’d thought. Two surgeons from the hospital of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium have discovered a new ligament in the knee, with major implications for how we might treat sports injuries in the future. The road to the discovery of the antero-lateral ligament, as it’s now known, dates all the way…

Bangor University scientists are embarking on a major project to work out why we shop the way we do. Researchers from the Department of Psychology will brain-scan supermarket shoppers to try to work out what’s going on in our brains when we’re presented with promotions and special offers. The project, conducted in partnership with the retail research firm SBXL, will ask shoppers to simulate a trip to the supermarket – all while in a £3 million fMRI scanner. The experiment works by displaying products on a screen and then asking the test subject to pick from a range of special…

Scientists now believe that within a decade they will be able to 3D print a human heart. To be able to construct a new organ seems incredibly complex; however Stuart Williams (executive and scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute in Louisville) states that the heart is likely to be the easiest of all organs to reproduce as it is essentially just a pump with tubes. The goal is not just to 3D print hearts, but to be able to do so in less than three hours! Fat cells are the intended material to use in the construction and with…

Researchers in the School of Ocean Sciences have made headlines from America to Australia – just not necessarily the headlines that they might have wanted. They surround the tale of Ming the clam, an ocean quahog who spent most of his long life blamelessly filter-feeding off the coast of Iceland before being dredged up by Bangor scientists. Just how long he’d been living there, however, hadn’t been clear until a few weeks ago. Ming was originally thought to have been a sprightly 405 – but further work showed that he was actually 507 when he was caught, making him the…

It’s the Oscars of the scientific world: two weeks ago, all eyes were on Stockholm where the winners of the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine were announced. While each prize comes with a cool $1.2 million’s worth of prize money, that’s hardly what inspires the thousands of scientists beavering away in labs hoping that someday it might be them. Rather, it’s the fact that the few who are chosen go down in history, joining the pantheon of scientific greats such as Einstein, Curie, Crick and Watson. The legendary status of the Prize itself comes with a history…

It may be in a rainy and industrial city, but inside you could be anywhere; Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age, the jungle or under the sea are just four possibilities. The Manchester Museum holds displays on all manner of things from ancient and far away worlds. It exhibits not only artefacts from the natural world but also the relics (literally, in some cases!) of human history from yester-milennia. Terry Deary, who wrote the Horrible Histories books, greets you with a welcome talk on a modestly-sized cinematic screen as you enter. What greets you thereafter is an Ancient Egypt exhibition; mummified…

US President Barack Obama recently announced a new research project aimed at mapping the human brain, pledging an initial $100 million to develop new technologies which can see every interaction between brain cells. The BRAIN project, short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, is hoped to do for neuroscience what the Human Genome Project did for genetics research, and use newly developed technologies to facilitate huge steps forward in treating brain diseases.

Results from the European Space Agency’s Planck mission have revealed that the Universe is approximately 13.82 billion years old, 80 million years older than previously thought. The Planck mission centres on a space telescope which observes microwaves and radio waves from all over the Universe. The light from furthest away was first emitted when the universe was only 380,000 years old, 0.003% of its current age. By tracing it back, the light reveals a more detailed picture of a universe only a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old, the tiny ‘quantum fluctuations’ of which have now stretched to…

The balance of chemicals present in your exhaled breath can be used to diagnose medical conditions, and reveal details about your body’s unique chemistry. These compounds are some of the body’s waste products – metabolites, and have already been shown to reveal conditions such as lung infections and stomach cancer. But new research has found that the levels of compounds in breath can act as a “fingerprint”, being unique and stable enough to distinguish individuals from one another. But while it is unlikely to be used in identification, the system promises easy prescription of personalised medicine, tailored to your body.

Researchers at Stanford University have found a way of turning the tissues of brain samples translucent – close to transparent, by embalming the brain in acrylamide, which hardens to a translucent gel when heated, and formaldehyde, which binds the acrylamide to the brain’s molecules. Applying an electric current takes away all matter which isn’t bound to the acrylamide gel, removing the fatty cell membranes which made the brain opaque but leaving the contents of the cells. Combined with marker molecules, used to trace chemicals in the brain, the CLARITY technique allows researchers to see exactly what is going on. Current…

Recent advances in genetic science have brought the possibility of cloning extinct animals closer to reality. A recent TEDxDeExtinction conference brought together scientists and ethicists to discuss the resurrection of extinct species, the consensus was that the process is within reach. But should it be done? Bringing a species back from extinction can be a complicated affair; amongst other procedures it can require obtaining or constructing the entire genetic code of the species, manipulating stem cells, combining all the elements of a fertilised egg and finding an appropriate surrogate to give birth to the individual of a long-lost species. But…

“I’m placing you under arrest for the future murder of Sarah Marks, that was to take place today…” So began Minority Report, the 2002 film about a team who arrested individuals before they had actually committed a crime. The methods in the film were science fiction, but a revolution in Big Data, using huge data sets to reveal patterns and make predictions, promises to bring such fantasy closer to reality. Using data in such a way is nothing new, but rising availability of the analysis tools brings that power to all new areas. By drawing on historical data and combining…

10% of Welsh farmers illegally killed badgers last year A study involving Dr Paul Cross from Bangor’s SENRGY estimates that one in ten farmers in Wales illegally killed badgers last year. Badger culling has become a hot topic in recent years, with several attempts to introduce widespread culling by government and farmer unions, despite considerable scientific evidence questioning their effectiveness on bovine TB. This evidence suggests that, in the absence of official culling, farmers are taking the process into their own hands; an action which could severely worsen the situation. The study used innovative questioning methods to protect the anonymity…

Asteroid passed close to Earth On the night of last Friday, the 15th of February, an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool shot by us, travelling at 8 miles a second, and skirting just below the level of many television satellites. NASA estimated that if asteroid DA14 had hit Earth, the resulting impact would have been 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Thankfully, there was little chance of that, the trajectory of the asteroid had been plotted soon after it was spotted by amateur astronomists, and found to steer just clear of Earth. No…

Once owl monkeys in Central and South America meet their partner, they pair for life, having a baby once a year and never cheating or “divorcing”. But sometimes, lone adult owl monkeys who have yet to find their partner will attempt to break up established pairs, fighting viciously to drive one of the monkeys out. But new research suggests that these monkeys who are forced to form a new pair have fewer babies than owl monkeys in pairs which have never been broken up. Males who have remained with the same partner have, on average, 25% more offspring in ten…

Doctors rely on the results of clinical trials to know whether a drug is safe and effective to prescribe, and patients trust in that prescription. But these clinical trials are conducted by pharmaceutical companies who are riddled with corruption. A new campaign spearheaded by Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma, and supported by various medical and patient groups, aims to change that. What’s the problem? Evidence from clinical trials is the most important factor for doctors deciding whether to prescribe treatments, but these trials are conducted by the same pharmaceutical companies who created the drugs, and they do everything they…