Scientific discoveries this week: 2/6/12

Yunnan Province, China – Petroleum companies map geological formations underwater using high-pressure blasts from air guns. The technology is being applied to the field of seismology to measure how seismic waves propagate through the rock. The researchers have postulated that they will be able to monitor the internal stress changes within the rock near fault zones. By tracking this stress, they may be able to predict earthquakes with some accuracy. Researchers plan to test the technology by firing the gun once a week for the next few years in a known seismically active zone and noting the changes that occur.

Cambridge, United Kingdom – According to a study, the children of drug-addicted parents appear to be approximately eight times as likely to develop an addiction later in life. The results of the study also indicated that it may not be because of the addiction of the parents, but rather because of a certain set of brain abnormalities present in the parents’ and children’s brains. The researchers tested 50 pairs of people, where one of the pair was addicted to a drug and the other was a sibling who was not addicted. In testing the pairs, they found that in almost every case, the brain abnormalities showed up in both siblings. Researchers will investigate the habits of the siblings to develop more effective strategies to prevent addiction.

Crawley, Australia – Coral reefs are susceptible to damage by a wide range of environmental effects. In recent years, marine ecologists have been tracking the growth of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and have concluded that its growth has been slowing due to heating and acidification of the water.

Ithaca, New York – Ultra-thin glass has always been difficult to make, and consequently has not been studied in great detail. Recently, a team of researchers accidentally made a sheet of glass only three atoms thick. When viewing the glass under an electron microscope, the researchers noticed a striking similarity between the arrangement of the molecules in the glass and a sketch of glass structure from 1932. The sketch was made by a glass theorist who was trying to determine the molecular structure of the material.

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