Category Archives: Science in the News

All-nighter during EXAMS: It will lead to Euphoria and Risky Behaviors

Based on a new study done by researchers at the UC Berkeley and Harvard Medical School, lack of sleep at night can lead to short-term euphoria, which can eventually lead to poor judgment and additive behaviors.

This study was done on healthy young adults, where researchers found that due to the lack of sleep, the neural pathways of stimulating euphoria increases. Mathew Walker an associate professor indicated that the brain will not be in it optimal state and swings towards both extremes not allowing wise decisions to be made. Two specific targets of sleep are disrupted: the Rapid Eye Movement (REM)- for body and brain activity which promote dreaming, and another is the Non-Rapid Eye Movement where muscles and brain resting is affected (Gujar 2011).

A study was done to compare images and rating of positive and neutral were conducted. The group who had gotten a good night’s sleep managed to have more accurate and moderate answers, whereas the ones who lacked sleep the night before gave all similar answers with positive rating. This is supported when the brains activity was compared. Those who pulled all-nighters had increased activity of the mesolimbic pathway- a brain circuit driven by  hormone dopamine. This hormonal activity increase leads to positive feelings, motivation, sex drive, addiction, cravings and decision making (Gujar 2011).

Walker explains that “short -term boost in dopamine levels, may seem advantageous, it can be detrimental if people are making impulsive decisions because they’re feeling overly optimistic. All in all, these positive activities are based on the brain’s key planning and decision making being shut down, and only the fight or flight reflex is active.

Therefore, as much as you think it is a good idea to stay up late night and study,  know that your brain will not react positively. Time yourself, and allow at least 6 hours of sleep in order to avoid all-nighters.

For detailed readings please visit the following link in Science Daily News:

New Battery Produces Energy in Plain Old Seawater

I found an article called New Battery Produces Energy Using the Ions in Plain Old Seawater. Like my article on banana peels removing toxic metals from water, it seems as though I am interested in things that use natural things to do things that we need.

This news article explores the science behind rechargeable battery, which uses a a combination of seawater and freshwater to generate usable electricity. This concept, like our HIV paper that we researched, is not feasible in real life – such as if we install a rechargeable battery into every ocean-discharging river in the world, simply does not make sense. If, however, we allowed our imagination to run wild, we would be able to produce 2 terawatts of electricity, which is 13% of worldwide electricity use. Researchers claim that this sort of technology is “ simple to fabricate and could contribute significantly to renewable energy in the future.”

So how does it work exactly?

There is a gadget that generates current by bridging the difference between the salinity in the seawater and freshwater. In the beginning, the fresh water is funneled into the batter, which has positive and negative electrodes. Once it is charged by an external energy sources, there is an exchange between the freshwater and seawater, which adds ions to increase the electrical potential, or voltage, between the two electrodes. According to Stanford News, it makes it possible to extract more electrical energy than the energy it takes to charge the battery itself.

Scientist, Larry Kostiuk from the University of Alberta claims that the first way to generate sustainable electricity was a 160 years, when scientists created electrical currents by pumping water through glass micro channels. This new discovery seems to me to be a vast improvement.

I believe that we need to do more research into green technology, I feel as though humans have evolved to a point where it’s unacceptable to not include the whole picture (as in keeping it green) when inventing something new. I would, however, enjoy reading articles as such and hearing that they actually implemented it rather than simply discovering it and stating that it doesn’t work in reality.

Laser to zap space garbage

To get you started thinking about space junk:

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NASA space scientist James Mason and his team of NASA Ames Research Center and  the University of Space Research Association in California have recently proposed a new theory to deal with the pieces of debris in the low Earth orbit (LEO) that are colliding with each other to create more pieces. They discovered a possible method of using a laser beam to change the velocity of the junk’s orbit by focusing the beam on it to slow it down and change its orbit. This can stop the debris from colliding with communications satellites or the International Space Station.

Satellites and space junk in orbit around Earth CREDIT: ESA

The scientists mention that continual evaluation of the chances of a collision between two space debris of 5 cm or more in diameter would be needed using radar data from the US Space Surveillance Network. The junks on the path of collision would then be tracked by an optical telescope. One of them will be locked on and the release of the laser beam will occur. Just by using 5-10 kilowatts commercially available lasers mounted on 1.5 meter telescopes placed close to the poles, the risk of more than half of potential space junk collisions could be significantly reduced. The total cost of the scheme would be no more than $10m, making it a much cheaper alternative than other ideas such as direct removal of space debris.

The new paper could give insight into how we can avoid the Kessler syndrome, where if more and more space junk are be created and colliding with each other, the generations of debris could ultimately render space exploration and satellite launches impossible. This prediction was done by a NASA scientist in 1978 and new solutions have been presented since then a lot with multiple complications and high price tags. Moreover, other countries involved in space exploration saw the proposed methods as threats to their functional satellites.

Although a feasible theory, the scientists speculate whether this method could actually do the trick remains a topic of debate. Team member William Marshall points out that there are a lot of uncertainties in the model and space-debris models need to be run to be certain that the theory will be effective in the long term.

What do prejudice, monkeys and evolution have in common?

The vast differences among humans is what makes us unique. Unfortunately these differences have been the cause of many wars and discrimination all over the world.

Science Daily covered a new study, in the March issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that shows prejudice may have an evolutionary basis.

Picture of monkeys courtesy of

For those who don’t know, prejudice is having a preconceived judgement toward a person or people because they are different.

The study conducted at Yale University has found that social groups of Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) show prejudice to other social groups. The researches showed the subject monkeys pictures of in-group monkey faces, and out-group monkey faces. And, they also would pair those faces with either good things like a banana, or bad things like a predator. The researches then recorded the amount of time the subject monkeys would look at each sequence. So, there was little difference in the looking time when in-group monkeys were paired with good things, and out-group monkeys were paired with bad things.

What surprised the researches was that when a picture of a out-group monkey was paired with a good thing, the monkey would look at it longer. This is because like humans, monkeys view in-group monkeys as positive and out-group monkeys as negative.

These results imply that the ability to distinguish between “us” and “them” may be at least 25 million years old, when humans and Rhesus monkeys shared a common ancestor.

Fortunately, in the relatively recent years of human existence, humans have become more aware of negative prejudice, and have been starting to change their views. Some humans even have a laugh about it.

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Tree Rings Give Scientists Insight to Earthquake History

It’s something we’ve all probably heard through the grapevine – the ‘looming’ earthquake that is going to hit the Vancouver region. After the recent devastation on Japan, one may be led to wonder, how are the effects seen down the road? Will the anguish still be prevalent hundreds, or even thousands of years from now?

In a recent conversation with Tom Balakshin (a friend and avid geologist) about the earthquake history in the Pacific Northwest, he enlightened me on how scientists track the history of seismic activity – specifically noting an earthquake that occurred in Northwest Washington approximately 1000 years ago. Though physical traits such as an abrupt uplift in shorelines, and evidence of a deposition from a tsunami, one of the most fascinating discoveries looks past the land formations, and to the vegetation of the surrounding land.

Prehistoric rock avalanches (believed to be the product of forceful seismic activity) in the Olympic Mountains between 1000 and 1300 years ago caused surrounding trees and plants to be completely submerged in water – trapping them in by rock dams. Scientists were able to determine the trees that drowned during the avalanche by observing tree rings. Trees that were underwater showed patterns uncharacteristic of those in normal conditions, such as diminished wood quality and varying ring spacing due to the death of outer layers. Analysis of the dead wood allowed scientists to determine that the avalanche predated the last ring about 100 years, as well as also indicating which season the trees died in.

Who would’ve thought that the rings of a tree could not only tell age, but also the environmental conditions that were present at that time? Even though the memories of those victimized through these devastations never fade, this just goes to show the Earth itself has its own way of keeping track of these natural catastrophes.

Check out this brief video on how scientists actually use the rings to reveal the tree’s history!

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