Scientific Discoveries (Week of 9/15)

Sweden: A team of scientists led by Martin Gustafasson of Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have captured the sound of an atom for the first time. An important feature of atoms is that “they are much smaller than the wavelength of optical light, making them appear like a point.” In order to capture the sound, the scientists use microwave radiation, which has longer wavelengths. Gustafasson said, “due to the slow speed of sound, we will have time to control the quantum particles while they travel.” In this way, the scientists can be able to record data of the sound because sound waves travel much slower than light waves. The team hopes to use this information to learn about quantum behavior, including in electrical circuits and on a bigger scale, computers.

China: Imagine not having a cerebellum. Without the cerebellum, many of the motor skills humans use for granted (talking, walking, etc.) are impacted. Physicians in China discovered a 24-year-old woman that is missing her cerebellum after she “sought medical attention due to nausea and vertigo.” There have only been eight cases before of a living person with cerebellar agenesis (lack of the cerebellum). CT scans and MRI images revealed a missing cerebellum in the woman’s brain. Instead, cerebrospinal fluid filled the gaps. Noticeably, the woman had trouble with walking steadily and had trembled/slurred speech. However, “she seemed like a normal person and her symptoms were at the mild impairment level,” the doctors said. Because this condition is so rare, her condition offers a unique opportunity to study more about this disorder.

Chicago, Illinois: A new king of dinosaur has now been found: Spinosaurus Aegyptiacus. Scientists in Chicago have identified the fossils, found near Morocco riverbanks, of the “first known aquatic predatory dinosaur,” which belongs to the Spinosaurus. The body stretched three meters longer than the largest known T-Rex specimen and the scientists say that the Spinosaurus spend most of its life submerged in water. Distinct aquatic features include nostrils at top of head, teeth for catching fish, dense bones for buoyancy in water, and a huge dorsal fin on its back.

Singapore: A team of researchers have developed an approach to effectively destroying polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the environment. They have discovered bacteria from a genus called Dehalococcoides that degrades PCBs. It is now “possible to design and engineer methods to rid the environment of harmful PCBs”. PCBs have compounds of chlorine and biphenyls that are toxic and virtually indestructible in the environment. Now, seven known enzymes in the bacteria, Delhalococcoides, have been “confirmed function on chlorinated compounds.” By applying those microbes to react with PCBs, it could pave the way for methods of degrading PCBs in the environment.

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