Scientific Discoveries this Week – December 1st, 2014

Observations involved with ESO’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) in Chile have revealed a shocking alignment in one of the largest structures discovered in the universe. European research teams have found that the rotation axes of quasars, galaxies with active supermassive black holes at their centers, align themselves with neighboring quasars. Damien Hutsenmekers from the University of Liege in Belgium lead the team making this discovery. He said, “The first odd thing we noticed was that some of the quasars’ rotation axes were aligned with each other despite the fact that (they) are separated by billions of light-years.” These researchers note that this discovery could further and change the current models of the cosmos.

A*Star researchers in Singapore have developed nanoparticles that light up in the acid environment surrounding tumors. Cancer cells typically have lower than average pH levels, meaning that the area around these tumors take on an acidic environment as well. These probes have been modified to fluoresce only at lower than normal pH values allowing doctors to find tumors and cancerous areas very easily. This technique is superior to invasive searching and is a solution to the difficult distinction between cancerous tissues and healthy tissues. The group plans to continue testing the toxicity and biological distribution issues before soon moving on to clinical trials.

A team of geologists from Caltech and the China Earthquake administration have discovered an ancient canyon buried alongside the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet, north of the Himalayas. Researchers say that the discovery of this canyon rules out a popular theory for how the Himalayan Mountains became so steep so quickly. In order to study geology from millions of years ago, researchers depend on rivers for information about the land and how it has changed. The old theory was that during the rapid uplift of the Himalayas, the rivers were pushed back, making them unable to flow into the plateau. But the discovery of this river-carved canyon negates this theory. Researchers must now begin to study and reevaluate the landscape to find new theories for how these mountains became so tall so quickly.

While cooties may not be real, bacteria transferred through kisses definitely is. Researchers from Micropia and TNO of the Netherlands studied 21 couples, having them fill out questionnaires on their intimate kissing frequency per day. They then took swab samples to investigate the composition of the microbes on the couples’ tongues and saliva. The study found that as many as 80 million bacteria are transferred during a ten-second kiss and that partners who kiss more than nine times per day share similar colonies of oral bacteria. The more interesting discovery found was that the men in these couples reported having a 74% higher intimate kiss frequency than the women they were in a relationship with. The men reported on average ten kisses per day while the women reported only about five kisses per day.

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