Scientific discoveries this week: 11/11/13

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine recently released their discovery of a cutting edge DNA sequencing technique known as “HaploSeq,” which allows for DNA to be differentiated between maternal and paternal contributions. “The technique will enable clinicians to better assess a person’s individual risk for disease. It is potentially transformative for personalized medicine,” Bing Ren, scientist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and lead researcher on the new sequencing technique. “In principal you could compare your genetic sequence to your neighbor’s and ask if you have any recent ancestors in common. With our technique we can study each individual and how they relate to other individuals. As we accumulate data from many individuals we can more precisely determine their relationships.”

Newly identified regions in Antarctica contain ice cores that may store up to 1.5 million years worth of information about the Earth’s climate and greenhouse gas levels. Currently, the oldest ice core only dates back about 750,000 years. The research team, led by lead author and experimental climate physics professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland Hubertus Fischer, believes that the 1.5 million year old slice of ice should reside at the bottom of East Antarctica. “A deep drilling project in Antarctica could commence within the next 3-5 years,” Fischer said. “This time would also be needed to plan the drilling logistically and create the funding for such an exciting large-scale international research project, which would cost around 50 million Euros.” The European Geosciences Union (EGU) published this finding in their Nov. 5 version of the open-access journal Climate of the Past.

Recent studies prove that when people have a similar facial structure to ourselves, we automatically deem them trustworthy. However, a new study published by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the Royal Holloway University in London validates the opposite. “When a person is shown to be more trustworthy, it can lead us to perceive that person as looking more similar to ourselves,” researcher Harry Farmer of Royal Holloway University said. Professor Manos Tsakiris, lead author of the study and member of the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway University elaborated further on the team’s findings. “Our results show how our perceptions of similarity between us and others extend beyond objective physical characteristics, into the specific nature of social interactions that we have,” Tsakiris said.

Researchers from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University discovered that an obsidian lava flow, a rare and thick type of lava rich in silica, was still inching between 1 and 3 meters a day after volcanic eruptions in April of 2012. “Although it moves slowly, it could speed up or collapse if it were to reach a steep hill,” Dr. Hugh Tuffen, who led the research team along with Dr. Mike James, said. “It looks like a solid cliff of crumbling rock up to 40 meters thick, that’s as thick as ten double-decker buses, but we found that hidden beneath this crust there is hot, slowly-flowing lava, at up to 900 °C, which can burst out of the edges of the lava flow and help it move forwards. This was previously thought to only occur in hot red flowing or basalt lava, but we have found that thick obsidian lava is actually pretty similar to its runnier cousins.”

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