Scientific discoveries this week: 3/3/14

Jack Hills, Australia – A piece of zircon discovered in an outcrop on a sheep farm in Western Australia has been discovered to been discovered to be the oldest unchanging piece of earth discovered, at an age of 4.4 billion years. John Valley, the geoscience professor from the University of Wisconsin who led the research, claims that this could imply that the planet was capable of sustaining earth 4.3 billion years ago where the earliest fossils are 3.4 billion years old, implying life-sustaining temperatures earlier than previously thought.

Heidelberg , Germany – A team led by Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has found a more accurate measurement for the weight of the electron, one of the most basic building blocks of matter. This was accomplished by weighing a single atom of carbon that was trapped inside of a Penning trap. The estimate of 0.000548579909067 atomic mass units is thirteen times more accurate than previous measurements.

Chicago, IL – Female night owls are have been found to have cortisone levels and propensity towards risk taking more similar to male night owls than other women. Being a night owl has been associated in men previously with extraversion, higher risk taking, as well as a higher number of sexual partners, and this study links the same for women. This study furthers the idea that eveningness developed in humans recently in human evolution to advance a short term mating strategy.

Copenhagen, Denmark – Despite Gardasil, the vaccine against the human papillomavirus, having only been in the Danish vaccination program for the past six years, a study has found a reduction of 40 to 80 percent reduction in incidents of cervical precursor lesions in vaccinated women compared to non-vaccinated women. Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær, MD, of the Danish Cancer Society and the Copenhagen University Hospital says, “The special thing about Denmark in this context is that we were very quick to implement the HPV vaccine nationwide. This is why we have managed to carry out such a comprehensive study of the effect of the HPV vaccine so soon”.

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