Scientific discoveries this week: 3-21-11

Evanston, Illinois, US – New cancer treatments in the form of diamond-coated chemotherapy drugs look promising. One of the primary difficulties with battling cancer has been getting the drugs to stay in the tumor long enough to kill it. Tumors, over time, develop “pumps” that evacuate the drug before it has a chance to work. Researchers have been working on a method of binding chemotherapy drugs to diamond nanoparticles, in an attempt to get the drugs “stuck” in the tumor. The particles are too large to be pumped out. With a longer drug residence time, tumors are reduced in size much more effectively.

Sapporo, Japan – The late Pliocene era has long been used to roughly model what the Earth’s atmosphere will become in the near future. Until recently, the Pliocene era was thought to show an Earth that was stuck in a perpetual El Nino, which is when the temperature of the surface of the Pacific ocean is high relative to the Atlantic ocean. Researchers at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, have started reanalysing the evidence that supposedly showed that the Pacific ocean was warmer than the Atlantic ocean. New evidence shows that, in fact, temperatures back then followed the same El Nino cycles as we experience now.
Bristol, UK – Creatures of the deep apparently have greater auditory acumen than many believed. Researchers have been studying how different crustaceans respond to sound, and have found that many tiny crustaceans, such as shrimp and larval crabs, not only detect sound but also respond to it. The study showed that most invertebrates do not like noise, and try to find quiet places to live. Of the species studied, only larval crabs seemed to like to noise of the reefs. This new information holds implications for off-shore sea traffic such as tanker ships and traffic.

Sussex, UK – Asian elephants are not as unintelligent as most animals, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Sussex in England. Elephants have a higher level of cognition than many other animals, even understanding how to help each other accomplish a task. The elephants, when presented with a task that they cannot do themselves, will wait until another elephant shows up to help. This level of problem-solving ability and cognition of surroundings is rare in the animal world. In the study, it also became apparent that the elephants understood why they needed help, not just that they needed help.

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