By Claire Roth
Physiology – Understanding our desires
Scientists from the United Kingdom recently were awarded with “The Brain Prize” by Denmark’s Lundbeck Foundation for their research on what it is in our brains that makes us enjoy things in life. In value, “The Brain Prize” amounts to one million Euros. The research centered around a chemical present in the brain called dopamine that is responsible for driving our reward-motivated behavior. This behavior includes actions like going to a restaurant again after having enjoyed it the first time or even experiencing a drive to graduate college. One of the methods used by the scientists to understand the brain’s pleasure center was observing the firing of neurons in an animal when they were given fruit juice. It was discovered that over time, if shown the same image before given the juice, the animals’ neurons would fire just the same when seeing the image in expectancy of later receiving the juice. This could be applied to why people are often drawn to high-calorie snack food brands that are packaged in flashy wrappers and bags. The scientists’ research could also prove useful in future studies on drug addiction, the forces behind economics and political elections.
Astronomy – Satellite launched
A satellite called Sentinel-2B was sent into orbit around the earth to join its sister satellite, Sentinel-2A, in a mission to photograph all of Earth’s land and waters. This event is part of the European Union’s Copernicus environmental monitoring program. The program aims to create an all-inclusive, continuous observation of planet Earth in order to keep in-depth tabs on the environment, effects of climate change, planetary security and more. The Sentinels have ultra-sensitive cameras that allow them to register details on Earth that measure as small as 10 meters across. This will be utilized by the European Union in a variety of ways, from city planning to measuring the wellbeing of crops to monitoring deforestation. In the future, the project hopes to launch more satellites with capabilities such as monitoring carbon dioxide and measuring the status of the planet’s ice caps.