Top Science News


Battling COVID-19 with UV light.

Views expressed in this science and technology update are those of the reporters and correspondents.

Content provided by “”

Accessed on 10 December 2020, 0346 UTC.

Source (email subscription to “”):

Please click link or scroll down to read your selections.



Battling COVID-19 using UV light

Researchers have found a possible breakthrough in how to manage COVID-19, as well as future viruses. It involves using polymer and oligomer materials activated with UV light in order to kill microbes on surfaces.
Tomatoes offer affordable source of Parkinson’s disease drug

Scientists have produced a tomato enriched in the Parkinson’s disease drug L-DOPA in what could become a new, affordable source of one of the world’s essential medicines.
Obesity impairs immune cell function, accelerates tumor growth

A new study in mice finds that a high-fat diet allows cancer cells to outcompete immune cells for fuel, impairing immune function and accelerating tumor growth. Cancer cells do so by rewiring their metabolisms to increase fat consumption. Blocking this rewiring enhances anti-tumor immunity. The findings suggest new strategies to target cancer metabolism and improve immunotherapies.


Researchers develop rapid genomics strategy to trace coronavirus

A team of researchers is pioneering the use of a fast genomic sequencing technology to help determine the source of hard-to-trace coronavirus cases.
Big data offers promise of better groundwater management in California

A research team has analyzed big data of more than 200,000 groundwater samples taken from across the state and found that there are problems with the guidelines used for groundwater management. Known as the ‘Base of Fresh Water’, the guidelines are close to fifty years old and don’t reflect current uses, knowledge, concerns or technologies related to managing groundwater in this coastal state with
Magnesium contact ions stabilize the macromolecular structure of transfer RNA

In cells transfer RNA (tRNA) translates genetic information from the encoding messenger RNA (mRNA) for protein synthesis. New results from ultrafast spectroscopy and in-depth theoretical calculations demonstrate that the complex folded structure of tRNA is stabilized by magnesium ions in direct contact with phosphate groups at the RNA surface.
Warmer springs mean more offspring for prothonotary warblers

Climate change contributes to gradually warming Aprils in southern Illinois, and at least one migratory bird species, the prothonotary warbler, is taking advantage of the heat. A new study analyzing 20 years of data found that the warblers start their egg-laying in southern Illinois significantly earlier in warmer springs. This increases the chances that the birds can raise two broods of offspring
Engineering discovery challenges heat transfer paradigm that guides electronic and photonic device design

A research breakthrough demonstrates a new mechanism to control temperature and extend the lifetime of electronic and photonic devices such as sensors, smart phones and transistors.
New tools ‘turn on’ quantum gases of ultracold molecules

Researchers have developed tools to ‘turn on’ quantum gases of ultracold molecules, gaining control of long-distance molecular interactions for potential applications such as encoding data for quantum computing and simulations.
New compound related to psychedelic ibogaine could treat addiction, depression

A non-hallucinogenic version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine, with potential for treating addiction, depression and other psychiatric disorders, has been developed by researchers.
Youth depression tied to higher risk of 66 diseases and premature death

Depressed children and teenagers have an increased risk of suffering from premature death and a wide range of illnesses later in life. That is according to a large observational study. The findings highlight the need to look for other potential diseases following childhood or adolescent depression. Other psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and substance misuse, can explain part of the associat
New study helps pinpoint when Earth’s plate subduction began

Plate subduction could have started 3.75 billion years ago, reshaping Earth’s surface and setting the stage for a planet hospitable to life.
Temporal crop diversity stabilizes agricultural production

Securing food supplies around the globe is a challenge facing humanity, especially in light of the predicted increase in the world’s population and the effects of climate change. Greater crop diversity in agriculture is seen as a stabilizing factor for food security. Yet crop diversity alone is not sufficient. Researchers now argue that it is also essential that crops differ in their temporal prod
Index reveals integrity issues for many of the world’s forests

Only 40 per cent of forests are considered to have high ecological integrity, according to a new global measure, the Forest Landscape Integrity Index. The Index was created by 47 forest and conservation experts from across the world.
‘Game changer’ perovskite can detect gamma rays

Scientists have developed a game-changing perovskite material that can be used as a cheaper and highly efficient alternative to gamma-ray detectors.
Space weather discovery puts ‘habitable planets’ at risk

Stellar flares with a chance of radio bursts: that’s the weather from Proxima Centauri. New research suggests exoplanets around red dwarf M-type stars will likely be exposed to coronal mass ejections, making the likelihood of finding life as we know it pretty slim.
New superhighway system discovered in the Solar System

Researchers have discovered a new superhighway network to travel through the Solar System much faster than was previously possible. Such routes can drive comets and asteroids near Jupiter to Neptune’s distance in under a decade and to 100 astronomical units in less than a century. They could be used to send spacecraft to the far reaches of our planetary system relatively fast, and to monitor and u
Honey bees fend off giant hornets with animal feces

Researchers discovered honeybees in Vietnam collect and apply animal dung around hive entrances to deter deadly nest raids by giant hornets. This finding is the first to document the use of tools by honeybees. Researchers found the hornets spent less time and did less chewing at hives with moderate to heavy dung spotting. They were also less likely to launch mass attacks on the more heavily spotte
A technique to sift out the universe’s first gravitational waves

A new technique may sift out universe’s very first gravitational waves. Identifying primordial ripples would be key to understanding conditions of the early universe.
First-known fossil iguana burrow found in the Bahamas

The fossilized burrow dates back to the Late Pleistocene Epoch, about 115,000 years ago, and is located on the island of San Salvador — best known as the likely spot where Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in his 1492 voyage.
Breakthrough in nuclear physics

The positively charged protons in atomic nuclei should actually repel each other, and yet even heavy nuclei with many protons and neutrons stick together. The so-called strong interaction is responsible for this. Scientists have now developed a method to precisely measure the strong interaction utilizing particle collisions in the ALICE experiment at CERN in Geneva.
Study connects diabetes, air pollution to interstitial lung disease

People with pre-diabetes or diabetes who live in ozone-polluted areas may have an increased risk for an irreversible disease with a high mortality rate. These findings are especially important today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where there is a heightened concern for the convergence of health effects from air pollution and SARS-CoV-2 in susceptible populations.
Wielding a gun makes a shooter perceive others as wielding a gun, too

Nearly a decade ago, cognitive psychologist Jessica Witt wondered if the mere act of wielding a firearm could bias someone to perceive another person as wielding one, too — and more importantly, if such a bias could be scientifically measured. A series of experiments later, Witt and her research team concluded, yes and yes. The team has recently published a new set of experiments further undersco
Spiders in space: Without gravity, light becomes key to orientation

Humans have taken spiders into space more than once to study the importance of gravity to their web-building. What originally began as a somewhat unsuccessful PR experiment for high school students has yielded the surprising insight that light plays a larger role in arachnid orientation than previously thought.
Silky sharks find hope in Atlantic, remain targets in Indo-Pacific

New research shows that conservation efforts in the Atlantic Ocean may be working for one of the most popular — and endangered — species that ends up in the global shark fin trade.
Innovation in novel hybrid energy systems

Future novel hybrid energy systems could lead to paradigm shifts in clean energy production, according to a new article.
A simple rule drives the evolution of useless complexity

A new study has shown that elaborate protein structures accumulate over deep time even when they serve no purpose, because a universal biochemical property and the genetic code force natural selection to preserve them.
Archaeopteryx fossil provides insights into the origins of flight

Molting is thought to be unorganized in the first feathered dinosaurs because they had yet to evolve flight, so determining how molting evolved can lead to better understanding of flight origins. Recently researchers discovered that the earliest record of feather molting from the famous early fossil bird Archaeopteryx found in southern Germany in rocks that used to be tropical lagoons ~150 million
Neanderthals buried their dead: New evidence

Was burial of the dead practiced by Neanderthals or is it an innovation specific to our species? Researchers have demonstrated, using a variety of criteria, that a Neanderthal child was buried, probably around 41,000 years ago, at the Ferrassie site (Dordogne, France).
How neurons form long-term memories

Neuroscientists have identified genes that memory neurons use to rewire connections after new experiences. The findings shed light on the biology of long-term memory, with implications for future approaches to intervene when memory deficits occur with age or disease.
New-found phenomenon that may improve hurricane forecasts

Rapid storm intensification and decay remain a challenge for hurricane forecasts. Many factors are involved and some of them are either poorly known or not yet identified. One such factor appears to be the presence of surface-active materials of biological (e.g., coral reefs) or anthropogenic (e.g., oil spills) origin.
Paleontologists find pterosaur precursors that fill a gap in early evolutionary history

With the help of newly discovered skulls and skeletons that were unearthed in North America, Brazil, Argentina, and Madagascar in recent years, researchers have demonstrated that a group of ‘dinosaur precursors,’ called lagerpetids, are the closest relatives of pterosaurs.
Science of sandcastles is clarified, finally

New research provides a solution for the century-and-half-old puzzle of why capillary condensation, a fundamentally microscopic phenomenon involving a few molecular layers of water, can be described reasonably well using macroscopic equations and macroscopic characteristics of bulk water. Is it a coincidence or a hidden law of nature?
‘Spooky Interactions’, shocking adaptations discovered in electric fish of Brazil’s Amazon

Researchers have shown how a cave-adapted glass knifefish species of roughly 300 living members (Eigenmannia vicentespelea) has evolved from surface-dwelling relatives (Eigenmannia trilineata) that still live just outside their cave door — by sacrificing their eyes and pigmentation, but gaining slightly more powerful electric organs that enhance the way they sense prey and communicate in absolute
Focus on human factor in designing systems

A new study has found one of the challenges in designing systems that involve people interacting with technology is to tackle the human trait of overconfidence.
Engineers discover new microbe for simpler, cheaper and greener wastewater treatment

Researchers have discovered a new strain of bacterium that can remove both nitrogen and phosphorous from sewage wastewater. Their findings offer a simpler, cheaper and greener method of wastewater treatment.
Microbes and plants: A dynamic duo

The unique partnership between root-dwelling microbes and the plants they inhabit can reduce drought stress.
How blood and wealth can predict future disability

Research shows that blood tests for biomarkers such as cholesterol and inflammation can predict disability in five years. Researchers studied blood biomarkers of 5,286 participants involved in the UK Household Longitudinal Study – and found that biological health can predict disability and healthcare demand in five years’ time. They also found that people on higher-incomes were more likely to seek
Several U.S. populations and regions exposed to high arsenic concentrations in drinking water

A national study of public water systems found that arsenic levels were not uniform across the U.S., even after implementation of the latest national regulatory standard. In the first study of differences in public drinking water arsenic exposures by geographic subgroups, researchers confirmed that community water systems reliant on groundwater, serving smaller populations located in the Southwest
Evolution may be to blame for high risk of advanced cancers in humans

Compared to chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary cousins, humans are particularly prone to developing advanced carcinomas — the type of tumors that include prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers — even in the absence of known risk factors, such as genetic predisposition or tobacco use. A recent study helps explain why.
Breast cancer survivors are less likely to get pregnant, but often have healthy babies and good long-term health

A large meta-analysis of breast cancer survivors of childbearing age indicated that they are less likely than the general public to get pregnant, and they face higher risk of certain complications such as preterm labor. However, most survivors who do get pregnant deliver healthy babies and have no adverse effects on their long-term survival, according to new data.
Southern Hemisphere westerly winds likely to intensify as climate warms

Polar climate scientists have created the most high resolution past record of the Southern Hemisphere westerly winds. The results describe how the winds are likely to intensify and migrate poleward as the climate warms. The study highlights the urgent need for better models to predict the future.
Filming roaming molecular fragments in real time

An international research team has captured roaming molecular fragments for the first time.
Significant increase in depression seen among children during first UK lockdown

The first lockdown led to a significant increase in symptoms of depression among children, highlighting the unintended consequences of school closures, according to a new study.
When strains of E.coli play rock-paper-scissors, it’s not the strongest that survives

What happens when different strains of bacteria are present in the same system? Do they co-exist? Do the strongest survive? In a microbial game of rock-paper-scissors, researchers uncovered a surprising answer.
Key driver of the spread of cancer to the brain

Approximately 200,000 cancer patients are diagnosed with brain metastases each year, yet few treatment options exist because the mechanisms that allow cancer to spread to the brain remain unclear. However, a study offers hope for the development of future therapies by showing how a poorly understood gene known as YTHDF3 plays a significant role in the process.
In new step toward quantum tech, scientists synthesize ‘bright’ quantum bits

Qubits (short for quantum bits) are often made of the same semiconducting materials as our everyday electronics. But now an interdisciplinary team of chemists and physicists has developed a new method to create tailor-made qubits: by chemically synthesizing molecules that encode quantum information into their magnetic, or ‘spin,’ states. This new bottom-up approach could ultimately lead to quantum
Using targeted microbubbles to administer toxic cancer drugs

New research has shown how microbubbles carrying powerful cancer drugs can be guided to the site of a tumor using antibodies. Microbubbles are small manufactured spheres half the size of a red blood cell – and scientists believe they can be used to transport drugs to highly specific locations within the body.
Experiment to test quantum gravity just got a bit less complicated

Is gravity a quantum phenomenon? That has been one of the big outstanding questions in physics for decades. Physicists have proposed an experiment that could settle the issue. However, it requires studying two very large entangled quantum systems in freefall. Researchers now present a way to reduce background noise to make this experiment more manageable.
Adapting magnetometers for noisy, physically demanding environments

Researchers routinely measure magnetic fields to better understand a vast array of natural phenomena. Many of these measurements are performed in shielded environments, but the research community has achieved these sensitive measurements in extreme environments as well as outside of highly controlled environments.
Database for studying individual differences in language skills

Why do people differ in their ability to use language? As part of a larger study into this question, researchers tested 122 adult native speakers of Dutch on various language and cognitive measures, including tests of vocabulary size

For the latest trends in science and technology, please check the blog sidebar, links, and twitter reports.  These news feeds are updated daily.  Thanks for joining us today.

Until next time,

Russ Roberts


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: