Scientific discoveries this week: 2-14-11

Wyoming, USA – Something is happening in the caldera under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Researchers have been monitoring the expansion of the caldera for many years, and have found that in the last several years some spots in the caldera have risen much more than others.  In 2004, some areas rose at a rate of roughly 2.8 inches per year. The volcano under Yellowstone is the largest of its kind on this continent, and while unlikely, an eruption would literally bury half of the United States.

London, UK – Bats may behave more like humans than once believed. In a cooperative study between researchers at the Max Planck Institute, the University of Zurich, and the University of Greifswald, researchers found that female bats tend to form cliques and stay together for long periods of time. Male bats are always solitary, but these groups of females often came together for grooming and feeding, and tended to maintain communication for years.

Lake Vostok, Antarctica – The sub-Antarctic body of water Lake Vostok has been buried under 12,000 feet of ice for thousands of years, and a Russian team of scientists have been drilling 24 hours a day for months to reach the icy waters. The prospect of reaching untouched, ancient water for testing provides ample reason to attempt this massive task. The drilling team reached to within 96 feet of the water-ice boundary, but had to stop and leave the area because of the rapidly approaching winter cold. The Vostok drilling station holds the infamous record of experiencing the coldest recorded temperatures on the planet, -129 degrees Fahrenheit.

Boston, MA – More accurate detection and treatment of prostate tumors may be a result of a new development in cancer research; a prostate genome has been successfully sequenced. This genome has given scientists and researchers a new insight into what makes prostate tumors aggressive or non-aggressive, and helps them see what actually drives the DNA “spelling errors” that cause cancer. Being able to see these DNA mutations, doctors may be better able to target specific drugs to halt the tumor growth, possibly avoiding invasive surgeries.

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