Science Snippets

Science Snippets

Bone regeneration

Manipulating biomaterials

The need for effective bone regeneration treatment is crucial now more than ever due to the ever-rising number of bone defects and fractures. Conventional bone regeneration treatments like grafts suffer from a shortage of available donors and complications due to the immune rejection of the grafts. To overcome these issues, newer methods of bone regeneration like bone tissue engineering are fast becoming the preferred treatment. Bone tissue engineering involves surgically implanting biodegradable biomaterials in the form of 3D scaffolds that can support and aid bone cells to repair the damaged bones. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru have now studied polymers derived from two families of polyesters to come up with ways of manipulating the properties of the biomaterials. Their study demonstrates that properties like mechanical strength and hydrophobicity could be increased with increase in crosslinking.


Lava tubes

Possible human habitats

Lava tubes, underground caves created by volcanic activity, could provide protected habitats large enough to house streets on Mars or even towns on the Moon, according to a research presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017. A further study shows how the next generation of lunar orbiters will be able to use radar to locate these structures under the Moon’s surface. Lava tubes can form in two ways. One way is through ‘overcrusted’ tubes forming when low-viscosity lava flows fairly close to the surface, developing a hard crust that thickens to create a roof above the moving lava stream. Another way is the ‘inflated’ tubes which are complex and deep structures that form when lava is injected into existing fissures between layers of rock or cavities from previous flows.


Planetary evolution

Similarities underneath

Scientists have long been intrigued by the surfaces of terrestrial bodies other than Earth which reveal deep similarities beneath their superficially differing volcanic and tectonic histories. Researchers have proposed a new way of understanding the cooling and transfer of heat from terrestrial planetary interiors and how that affects the generation of the volcanic terrains that dominate the rocky planets in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Based on the present dynamics of Jupiter’s tidally heated moon, Io, the scientists hypothesise that the geological histories of the solar system’s terrestrial bodies are consistent with a mode of early planetary evolution involving heat pipes.


Olfactory mirror

Dogs can recognise themselves through smell

Imagine a species that lived in a world of smells and didn’t pay a lot of attention to what things look like. What would members of that species use for a mirror? Yes, of course, we are talking about dogs, who usually don’t seem to understand the mirrors humans use. Sometimes they ignore them. Often they bark as if the dog in the mirror were a stranger. Scientists use mirrors to find out if animals recognise themselves, to see if they have some sense of self. Chimpanzees do very well on what is called the mirror test.

Researchers have reported that dolphins, one elephant and a magpie have also passed this test. Dogs have not, and that has raised questions about whether dogs might recognise themselves if another sense were tested. Alexandra Horowitz, a psychologist at Barnard College, USA, who studies the behaviour of dogs, decided to give dogs a chance at showing self-recognition on their own, smelly terms. In a recent study, she concludes that they do recognise the smell of their own urine. While some researchers find the study intriguing, the scientist who first developed that mirror mark test doesn’t think the evidence supports her conclusion. Still, even the idea of a smell mirror is mind boggling.


Documentary

Genius

Genius is a documentary series that narrates the life of the  legendary intellectual Albert Einstein. The story puts the spotlight on Einstein’s humble origins as a young, rebellious thinker and his struggles to be recognised by the academia. The series also delves into Einstein’s
personal life.

Genius, in particular, chronicles two different periods of  Einstein’s life: the first as a patent clerk struggling to gain a teaching job and doctorate, the second as a great mind respected for his inventions and theories, including the development of the Theory of Relativity. The documentary series is an adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s book Einstein: His Life and Universe. To watch the documentary, visit www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y4GMBF5.

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