This week in science (Jan. 25 – Feb. 1)


By | Claire Roth

“When we became the climate changers” Illustration. | Claire Roth

Climate – When we became the climate changers

When it comes to conversations surrounding climate change, there seems to be more agreeing to disagree than flat-out agreement. It’s a strange phenomenon for a topic having to do with the existence of our planet as we know it. A group of scientists recently set out to create a starting point for this pivotal discussion, effectively creating a timeline for climate change and its origins. The group published an article in the American Meteorological Society outlining estimations of climatic variation since before the industrial age. The goal of this was to contain better conversations of what is considered to be a “normal” climate for our earth within a definition of where the age of industry began. The group was spurred into action after analysis of ice cores displayed a spike in carbon dioxide emissions much earlier than the previously agreed upon beginning of industry. This means humans were affecting the global climate far earlier than originally believed. Research on this topic could prove hopeful in political spheres as well, helping policy makers to better perceive humanity’s impact on the planet.

Source: BBC, American Meteorological Society

“>0.001 percent human, ~0.999 percent pig” Illustration. | Claire Roth

Cellular – >0.001 percent human, ~0.999 percent pig

A new type of fetus has crossed the known boundaries of what is human and what is pig. Researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in San Diego were recently successful in their efforts to grow human tissue within a pig fetus. Human cells were inserted into a pig embryo, which was then implanted in a sow to attempt growth for 28 days. The purpose of this endeavor is to eventually find a way to propagate human organs within another animal. Many obstacles lie in the way between this team of scientists and success. Some of these obstacles include questions of morality by outside entities, a five-month difference in gestation time between humans and pigs and also the fact that the majority of embryos in the study did not make it even close to existing for the 28-day goal of the study. The scientific importance and significance of the study persists in the fact that healthy, available organs could one day save the lives of those in need of transplants.

“Cat, Ph.D” Illustration. | Claire Roth

Source: BBC, Cell Journal

Wildlife – Cat, Ph.D.

There is one question that can oftentimes make or break any relationship: are you a dog person or a cat person? If you’re a dog person and your first argument is to claim canine intelligence superior to feline intelligence, think again. Researchers at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan subjected cats to a series of harmless tests of intelligence. They found that cats are conscious of past enjoyable experiences, such as where a tasty treat was located. This means that cats, like dogs, may be able to associate certain human sounds and gestures with specific meanings.

Source: BBC, Behavioural Processes Journal

“Saccorhytus “R” Us” Illustration. | Claire Roth

Evolution – Saccorhytus “R” Us

Scientists have pinpointed the earliest known human ancestor. One thing is for certain: you are guaranteed to look nothing alike, unless you happen to be around 540 million years old and resemble an alien football. Researchers have identified fossilized remains of a millimeter-sized creature known as Saccorhytus that is currently the earliest known placeholder on the evolutionary timeline of humanity and numerous other species of vertebrates. Saccorhytus likely spent its days on the ocean floor hanging out between grains of sand, consuming lifeforms smaller than itself. Perhaps it also contemplated the millions of years it would take for evolution to take it through the stages of being a fish and into the millions more years it would take for evolution to finally craft it into a human.

Source: BBC, Nature Journal

“Plant some pollination” Illustration | Claire Roth

Ecology – Plant some pollination

A sharp decline in bee populations has resulted in many farmers resorting to hand-pollination, such as apple farmers in China. However, a recent international study may hold part of the key to saving the world’s key pollinators, maintaining agricultural wellbeing and improving the ecological health of our natural landscapes. Researchers from global locations studied the effect of removing exotic plants from secluded mountaintop landscapes on the success rate of pollination in those areas. They found that areas where there were more native plants displayed a wealth of pollinators, flowers and fruit. This was linked to the possibility of an interconnected web of life in these areas and stands as a testament to the importance of ecological restoration efforts around the world.

Source: BBC, China Dialogue, Nature Journal

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