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Thursday 21 September 2017
News updated at 1:30 AM IST

Sciencetake

Gubbi Labs, The New York Times, Science Times, Sep 11 2017, 23:59 IST
Graphene oxide can kill cancer cells specifically.

Graphene oxide can kill cancer cells specifically.

Personalised therapy

Magnetic nanoparticles to treat cancer

Currently regarded as a collection of diseases, cancer is most accurately characterised by an unregulated growth of cells within the body. Given that cancer itself is so multifaceted, many therapies are used to combat it. However, offlate the trend has been to use more targeted and personalised therapies in order to specifically target the type of cancer being dealt with. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru have come up with another such therapy. This therapy utilises graphene oxide molecules conjugated with magnetic nanoparticles. Graphene nanocomposites can act as a substrate where various specialised drugs can attach, that can then be slowly released in the specific body part harbouring a tumour. In addition, graphene oxide has also been shown to kill cancer cells specifically. What’s more, graphene oxide nanocomposites can also be thermally excited by shining near-infrared radiation on them and thus be used to kill tumour cells in a targeted way.


DNA barcoding

Identifying the pests genetically

Thrips is the common name given to insects belonging to the order Thysanoptera. These tiny insects have unique asymmetrical mouthparts which they use to feed on plant matter. These insects are not only capable of destroying important crops like cotton, but also act as vectors of plant viruses. The precise identification of these insects can help us design effective strategies to control them. In their recent study, scientists from the Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata used DNA barcoding technique to differentiate 89 morphospecies of thrips. This study is the largest ever DNA barcoding effort conducted on thrips! Through the study, the researchers were able to distinguish between closely related species and species complexes. The research contributed 104 novel sequences of 39 morphospecies to the GenBank database, which is a genetic sequence database.


Great asset

When are you really random?

The ability to behave randomly can be a great asset. Think of the mouse trying to outrun a cat — moving in an erratic, unpredictable way makes it harder to catch. In humans, this sort of behaviour is thought to be linked to creativity and cognitive complexity. But understanding the mind’s capacity to produce randomness is difficult. Recently, a team from Europe pitted humans and computers against one another in a series of tasks designed to measure random choice-making. Around age 25, the researchers determined, people are best able to produce a random result. Traditionally, computational tools for studying random behaviour have been limited, according to Hector Zenil, an author of the study, published in PLOS Computational Biology, and a co-leader of the Algorithmic Dynamics Lab at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. His team compiled five tasks of randomness. These included mimicking a series of random coin flips or dice rolls and arranging a grid of black and white boxes to look random. More than 3,400 people participated in the experiment. Measuring how participants performed against several factors, including age, sex and educational background, the researchers found a strong trend only with age. On average, performance improved from childhood to the mid-20s. It then stayed relatively high until the 60s, after which it began to decline. For those over 60, though, there was no need to fret. Not only was the difference between participants aged 25 and those aged 60 relatively small, but there are probably other trade-offs influencing creative capacity, Hector said.


From shockwaves

Origins of cosmic rays

The origin of cosmic rays, high-energy particles from outer space constantly impacting on Earth, is among the most challenging open questions in astrophysics. Now, a new study sheds light on the origin of those energetic particles. Discovered more than 100 years ago and considered a potential health risk, cosmic rays are believed to be produced by shock waves. Much of this is seen through Crab Nebula, a known producer of cosmic rays. The new study reveals that the electromagnetic radiation streaming from the Crab Nebula may originate in a different way than traditionally thought. The entire radiation can potentially be unified and arise from a single population of electrons.


Great asset

When are you really random? After age 24

The ability to behave randomly can be a great asset. Think of the mouse trying to outrun a cat — moving in an erratic, unpredictable way. In humans, this sort of behaviour is thought to be linked to creativity and cognitive complexity. But understanding the mind’s capacity to produce randomness is difficult. Recently, a team from Europe pitted humans and computers against one another in a series of tasks designed to measure random choice-making. Around age 25, the researchers determined, people are best able to produce a random result. Traditionally, computational tools for studying random behaviour have been limited, according to Hector Zenil, an author of the study, published in PLOS Computational Biology, and a co-leader of the Algorithmic Dynamics Lab at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. His team compiled five tasks of randomness like mimicking a series of dice rolls. Measuring how participants performed against several factors, the researchers found a strong trend only with age. On an average, performance improved from childhood to the mid-20s. It then stayed relatively high until the 60s. For those over 60, there was no need to fret. Not only was the difference between participants aged 25 and those aged 60 relatively small, but there are probably other trade-offs influencing creative capacity, Hector said.


Documentary

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

The entire scope of the digital age — from the birth of the Internet, to artificial intelligence, to catastrophic predictions of the end of days — is what Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, a documentary by Werner Herzog covers. In it, Werner leads viewers on a journey through a series of provocative conversations that reveal the ways in which the online world has transformed how virtually everything in the real world works — from business to education, space travel to healthcare, and the very heart of how we conduct our personal relationships. To watch the documentary, visit www.loandbehold-film.com.

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