Scientific discoveries this week: 4-16-12

Marseille, France – Monkeys may have the intelligence to identify and effectively “read” short English words. In a study conducted by cognitive psychologists in France, baboons showed an ability to identify the unique arrangement of letters in each word. During the study, the monkeys would approach a touch screen computer. An arrangement of letters would appear and the monkeys would touch an “x” or an “o” depending on whether they believed the letters constituted a word. At the end of the study, the monkeys correctly distinguished words from non-words 75% of the time.

Garching, Germany – In a recent discovery, a group of physicists in Germany may now be able to create an “unhackable” network. The network relies on quantum entanglement, which states that when two atoms are entangled they share information. If one atom is measured, the state of the other atom is guaranteed to be known. This is used in information networks by entangling multiple atoms, and sending information from atom to atom via a photon. When an outsider observes the information they send a ripple through the network alerting the intended recipients to the intruder’s presence, thus making the network unhackable.

Cleveland, Ohio – A group of students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, have proposed a solution to the age-old problem of winter potholes. They used non-Newtonian fluids to patch potholes because of their unique characteristics. Specifically, the students are studying the phenomenon of shear-thickening, which is when a fluid hardens after being subjected to a sudden force. The students reduced the effect of the hazards by filling bags with a non-Newtonian fluid and placing them in potholes.

Los Angeles, California – A team of UCLA researchers have genetically engineered stem cells to fight HIV in a living organism. The scientists engineered stem cells to develop into CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocyte cells, which are able to destroy HIV-infected cells. CD4 T cells, also known as white blood cells, become depleted as a result of the HIV infection. In a series of tests on mice the researchers found that after injecting the engineered stem cells, the number of CD4 T cells increased while levels of HIV in the blood decreased. According to a researcher this is the first step in developing a more aggressive approach to fighting off HIV.

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