Scientific discoveries this week: 9-20-10

Sydney, Australia – Researchers at University of Sydney, Australia have found a way to make aluminum as strong as steel, while maintaining its lightweight properties. By crushing aluminum disks under 10-ton forces while slowly rotating them, the researchers have created super-strong aluminum. The new metal will hopefully come as an economical replacement to titanium, whose high costs limit its use to only the highest-tolerance applications. The final product of an alloyed aluminum put under this stress is a metal that can withstand three times the stress as pure aluminum.

La Jolla, California – Over ten years of work has finally paid off for Glen Nemerow, a researcher at Scripps Research Institute, as he recently helped to finally produce a 3-D atomic-scale map of the virus that causes the common cold. The virus, which causes many ailments besides the common cold, could potentially solve many problems if it could be re-engineered to help cure gene deficiencies and maladies like cancer. The new 3-D map will pave the way for new methods in solving old problems.

Harvard, Massachusetts – Social networking sites may be able to help anticipate the spread of illnesses such as the H1N1 virus. The idea behind this, as researchers Nicholas Christarkis of Harvard University and James Fowler of University of California, San Diego have said, is that your friends have more friends than you. The person you call a friend is likely to have more friends than you, and consequently will have more contacts than you. By following the infectious diseases and illnesses, these more well-connected people contract, you can accurately predict who will get the illness next.

Laos – An extremely rare antelope-like creature was discovered in Laos, a creature thought possibly extinct because of the infrequency of sightings. The creature, commonly called an ‘Asian Unicorn’ in Laos, has two horns (making its nickname a misnomer) and is very similar to an antelope. The proper name is ‘saola’, a relative of wild cattle, and it is thought that no more than a few hundred currently survive living in the forested mountains along the Vietnamese-Lao border.

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