Scitech Briefs

3..2..1..Blast off to Pluto!

On Thursday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft blasted off into space on a 10-year, three-billion-mile mission to Pluto. It will take New Horizons nine years to reach Pluto. Its mission is to capture up-close images of Pluto, its moons, and the Kuiper Belt, a region of the outer solar system. If successful, New Horizons will be the first mission to be up close and personal with Pluto.

Source: CNN

Chocolate’s benefits

Research reveals that a chemical known as epicatechin found in chocolate is beneficial to the cardiovascular system and blood circulation. The study was based on the Kuna Indians, who consume three to four cups of flavanol-rich cocoa a day. High blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases are rare among the Kuna Indians. Their blood contained higher levels of nitric oxide, which resulted in healthier blood flow through the arteries. Also, flavanols allow vascular tissue to relax. Meanwhile, the Kuna Indians who only consumed about four cups of cocoa per week did not have the same levels of cardiovascular health.

Source: Yahoo! News

Deadly bugs and the avian flu

Metapneumovirus. Rhinovirus. Parainfluenza. Sound deadly? While fears of the avian flu are affecting everyone around the globe, the risk of death by other infectious diseases is right around the corner. These viruses live on objects like faucets, door handles, and change from the coffee shop. No one in the Western Hemisphere has yet contracted the strain of avian flu strain being spread in Eastern countries. On the other hand, strains of other flu viruses are likely to kill more than 35,000 U.S. residents this year.


World’s first magnetic elevator built

Invented by Toshiba Elevator and Building System Corp., maglev elevators will be the first to utilize magnetic levitation. These elevators will use magnets in place of wheels and guide rails, promising a quieter and more comfortable lift. This use of magnetic attraction and repulsion is capable of suspending objects in midair. The only passenger-carrying high-speed train developed using maglev is located in Shanghai, China.


Chemicals accumulating in polar bears

According to Canada’s National Water Institute, polar bears are one of the planet’s most contaminated organisms. The toxic chemicals used in flame retardants are carried to the Arctic via wind and ocean currents. These chemicals accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals. As bigger animals eat smaller contaminated animals, the toxic chemicals become more concentrated at the top of the food chain. Industrial chemicals have been shown to weaken immune systems, damage the bone structure, disrupt sex hormones, and worse. Many cubs are contaminated by their mothers’ milk and die. A framework has already been established to spread and help the polar bears globally.

Source: The National Academies