10 Amazing Discoveries You Missed This Week
Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Angela Waye
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Here are 10 amazing discoveries you may have missed this week.
1. Blood Test for Depression
“Where are you going?”
“Who are you with?”
“When will you be back?”
Ah, the teen years. Our culture regards adolescents as sullen, moody and disillusioned, but it’s no joke at any age when what appears to be moodiness is actually depression or anxiety, serious problems that can be hard to diagnose.
That’s why a new study -- preliminary but promising -- showing that a simple blood test can diagnose depression is pretty huge news.
"Once you have a measurable index of an illness, it's very difficult to say, 'Just pull yourself together,' or 'Get over it,'" Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and leader of the study told Melissa Healy of the LA Times.
The Times story describes how the study was done by testing rats, one group of healthy test subjects, another with a vulnerability for depression. The rats with depression had 11 molecules in their blood and brains that were “largely absent” in the healthy rats, and 15 molecules in rats that had depression and anxiety that were absent in those with depression only. Researchers then tested for these “biomarkers” and found teens with depression “had significantly higher concentrations of the 11 targeted molecules in their blood,” and 18 biomarkers distinguishing teens with depression from those with depression and anxiety.
More research needs to be done, but the study heralds a brighter future for early diagnosis and “the researchers said they hoped to include adults in future testing.”
Teen or otherwise, even the toughest cynic would have a hard time looking at how lives can be changed by this new test and say “Yeah…whatever.”
2. The Math to Enlightenment
Speaking of adolescence...thirty years out of high school and finally someone has shown that the math we dismissed as impractical in our high school misery is not only practical but it could get you out of one of life’s little miseries: a traffic ticket.
Physics Central reports that Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist from the University of California at San Diego was pulled over by an officer for blowing through a stop sign. Krioukov didn’t pay the fine: instead he wrote a paper proving he was innocent by showing that the officer was mistaken because of three simultaneously occurring phenomena: 1) the officer measured Krioukov’s angular, not linear velocity; 2) Krioukov’s rapid deceleration, which made it look like he hadn’t stopped; and 3) another car momentarily obstructed the officer’s view at just the right moment, causing him to miss Krioukov’s actual stop. The argument is detailed on Physics Central -- with graphs -- and you can look at the paper if you’d like to try to prove him wrong (wouldn’t dream of it).
Best part: not only were both the officer and the judge convinced, but the judge says the officer was not at fault either. Kate Scott from Wired UK noted via Ars Technica that the judge said the officer’s “perception of reality did not properly reflect reality.”
Happens to us every day.
3. What’s Under Those Sheets?
A news story that directly references Jurassic Park, The Empire Strikes Back, The Andromeda Strain and Contagion? We’re there!
And if it sounds scary, don’t panic: Just read Scientific American’s beautifully written " Melting Glaciers Liberate Ancient Microbes" by Cheryl Katz and the Daily Climate (an extended version of Bugs in the Ice Sheet, SA’s May 2012 issue). Now that the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are melting, “tiny organisms that may have been trapped there longer than modern humans have walked the planet, biding their time until conditions change and set them free again,” will become, well, free again.