Scientific discoveries this week: 9-5-11

Cork, Ireland – Recent studies by neuroscientists at the University College Cork in Ireland have indicated that bacteria in the human digestive system can influence brain activity. John Cryan, one of those neuroscientists, has found that even benign bugs that live in the intestines can have a noticeable effect on the brain. In a recent study, scientists fed mice a broth with a strain of benign Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1 bacteria and monitored the the response. During testing, the mice infected with the bacteria showed a significant decrease in sensitivity to environmental stress. While the practical uses of this knowledge are still unknown, further research could lead to a better understanding and treatment of human emotional disorders.

Mexico City, Mexico – The Aztecs, ancient inhabitants o modern Mexico, kept surprisingly good records of the land and farms in their possession. Clara Garza-Hume, a mathematician at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, has found old paper maps created by the Acolhua-Aztecs, which contained detailed measurements of the land throughout their region, along with the area of each farm accurate to within 10% in many cases. This achievement is notable because this map was produced in the 1500’s, long before trigonometry and geometry were in use.

Manchester, United Kingdom – Egyptian society appears to have highly valued hair styling and individuality, as evidenced by the considerable use of some fat-based styling gels, according to the University of Manchester. Researchers believe that hair was indeed styled intentionally due to the fact that the chemicals and fats found in the hair of the mummies were unlike those found on other parts of the bodies. Additionally, tongs, whose use for curling hair seems plausible, have been found in the tombs with the mummies. In keeping with Egyptian religious beliefs, mummies were sometimes embalmed with elaborately styled hair, as it was important to maintain a good appearance for the afterlife.

Caparica, Portugal – One of the most common beliefs in the beer-consuming world is that lager, the traditional and most wide-spread type of beer in the world, originated from Bavaria, Germany. But while the brewing process of Lagering was developed in Germany, the yeast that powers the fermentation actually evolved from a yeast strain that is native to Argentina. Saccharomyces carlbergensis, the yeast responsible for most of the beers in the developed world, is a descendant of the strain S. eubayanus, which grows and thrives in the mountains of Patagonia. This yeast strain probably hitched a ride over to Germany on a trading vessel sometime in the distant past, where its unique low-temperature characteristics (ideal for beers that are meant to be stored for long periods of time) propelled it into global dominance.

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