You may have heard about NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, but there have been other breakthroughs in the past month that didn't recieved the same coverage. Everything from a new big bang theory, a (kind of) cure for blindness, and new species which were recently descovered, the science world has rcently been abuzz with fun and interesting stories.
These are the stories that slipped under the radar:
Theory Identifies Big Bang as Phase Change
The widely accredited Big Bang theory, explaining how the universe originated in an extremely dense state and erupted into a continuously expanding cosmos, now has a new twist. According to James Quach and colleagues at the University of Melbourne in Australia, the development of space and time should be understood as a phase change, when the universe, at first in a state analogous to water, crystallized into what we see in its current, solid state. "Think of the early universe as being like a liquid. Then as the universe cools, it 'crystallizes' into the three spatial and one time dimension,” Quach said. “Theorized this way, as the universe cools, we would expect that cracks should form, similar to the way cracks are formed when water freezes into ice." While the space-time continuum appears unbroken, Quach and his team are now seeking to find these “cracks” that would represent the boundaries formed by the crystallization of the universe.
New Fish Species Discovered off New Zealand
1.7 miles deep in the oceans off New Zealand, a team of scientists discovered new “strange looking” species of fish, according to New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The findings include a rib-less whalefish, virtually eyeless eel, and two-tone slickhead. "The eight stations sampled a tiny area but gave us a useful snapshot of the animals occupying some of the seafloor at depths greater than 2,000 meters [1.2 miles] around New Zealand. We know very little about the abundance and distribution of fishes at these depths," NIWA fisheries scientist Peter McMillan said.
Blind Mice Led to the Light
Scientists have found a potential treatment for some cases of human blindness after a light-sensitive chemical known as AAQ caused previously blind mice to detect light. Dr. Richard Kramer and colleagues at UC Berkeley and the University of Washington treated the mice by injecting AAQ into their eyes, activating visual neurons on the retina by binding to ion channels. The mice that received injections ran away when exposed to bright light and had contracting pupils; however, the results were only short-lived.
Microbe Turns Garbage into Gas
Bioengineered bacteria know as Ralstonia eutropha have been trained by scientists at MIT to turn waste into fuel. By genetically modifying the genes of the soil bacterium, Christopher Brigham, a research scientist in MIT’s biology department, and his team have manipulated the bacteria’s tendency to produce plastic and instead caused it to make isobutanol, a type of alcohol compatible with gasoline. According to Mark Silby, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, “This system in particular has the potential to derive carbon from waste products or carbon dioxide, and thus is not competing with the food supply. The potential impact of this approach is huge.”
Llama Semen Aids Human Fertility
A nerve protein found in llama semen could provide a solution for people who are struggling to conceive. Veterinary surgeon and reproductive scientist Gregg Adams and his colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada identified nerve growth factor (NGF) as the chemical stimulus in seminal fluid that induces ovulation in female llamas. While humans do not rely on a chemical stimulus to ovulate, Adams has demonstrated that NGF promotes the development of the corpus luteum, an endocrine structure necessary to maintain pregnancy, and abbreviates the ovulation cycles of cows.