Scientific discoveries this week: 5-3-2010

Beijing, China – A new study shows that certain dinosaurs changed the appearance of their feathers during adolescence. Somewhat like modern birds, who molt while growing, the study suggests that the basic structure of dinosaur feathers changed as they grew. The study’s authors analyzed two 125 million-year-old fossils of the feathered dinosaur, Similicaudipteryx. One of the dinosaurs, presumed to be younger because of its size and skeletal structure, had ribbon-like bases on its feathers. The older dinosaur, however, had quilled feathers along the base. It is presumed that this change took place after the animals molted and their feathers grew back.

Bath, U.K. – A new type of wound dressing has been developed which intelligently targets harmful bacteria growth. In some types of wounds, for example burns, bacterial growth is a common and dangerous problem. The new dressing, however, contains things which, from the bacteria’s perspective, look like prime infestation targets. However, they are in reality capsules of an antibacterial agent which kills the bacteria attacking it. The device is still in its prototypical stages, and will not be in use in hospital settings for some time.

Rochester, NY –
New research suggests that humans use multiple areas of their brain to comprehend language. The study looked at how the brain analyzed two different grammatical structures common in world language – one in which word order determines meaning and one in which word endings determine meanings. The study found that different sections of the brain are used to handle each of these. The frontal cortex, which also helps determine informational sequences in other contexts, is used for word order grammars. The temporal lobe, which also helps categorize information, is used for word ending grammars.

Berkeley, CA – A team of researchers have discovered a new, cheap way to produce hydrogen gas from water. To electrolyze hydrogen gas from water, a stable metal catalyst is needed; previously, platinum, an extremely costly metal, was the best option. The new research, however, reveals a new catalyst with a much lower price. The scientists hope their research will help hydrogen become an abundant and clean fuel source in the future.

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