SciTech Briefs

Facebook quickly disables ‘Breakup Notifier’ app

An application released on Feb. 20 which informed Facebook users when a chosen friend changed their relationship status was shut down by Facebook just three days later. The social network contacted the application’s creator, Dan Loewenherz, 24, and informed him that although the application was not breaking any Facebook policies, it received very strong negative feedback from users. While Facebook continues to look into the situation, Loewenherz is confident the social network will lift the ban on his app.

Source: PC World

Cell phone usage affects brain activity

The National Institutes of Health recently published results showing that a 50-minute cell phone call alters brain activity. The study involved 47 volunteers who received two brain scans: one in which a cell phone was attached to the participant’s right ear, and one that was phone-free. The scans involving the phone showed an average increase in the rate of glucose metabolism — a proxy for brain activity — of 7 percent. These findings show that the brain is sensitive to cell phone use, but do not determine if the effects are harmful.

Source: USA Today

Moderate drinking associated with healthiness

A study from researchers at the University of Calgary shows that having an alcoholic drink every day may contribute to cardiac health, though excessive drinking will still lead to harmful consequences. The findings show that moderate drinkers are 14 to 25 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who abstain from drinking. Moderate drinkers also had more heightened levels of high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, than non-drinkers. These findings indicate that drinking in moderation may have health benefits.

Source: Time Magazine

New drug attacks main cause of cystic fibrosis

There is now a new drug on the market to combat cystic fibrosis, the disease associated with a buildup of thick mucus in the human digestive tract and lungs. Vertex Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Mass. performed a study in which 161 people with cystic fibrosis showed that when combined with one other medicine, VX-770 helped improve lung functioning by about 20 percent. Rather than attacking the symptoms of the disease like drugs in the past, VX-770 attacks the defective protein called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator, the main cause of cystic fibrosis.

Source: New Scientist

Space shuttle Discovery makes final launch

The space shuttle Discovery successfully launched its 39th and final flight on Thursday. Within one hour before takeoff, problems arose with an Air Force tracking system computer that caused many to doubt the launch. With about five minutes left before launch, the problem was successfully repaired, and the shuttle launched with only three seconds left in the day’s launching window. The space shuttle delivered supplies and equipment to the International Space Station three days later.

Source: The New York Times

Researchers create the world’s smallest computer

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created the “first true millimeter-scale complete computing system,” according to a professor at the university. The computer covers just the “N” letter on a penny. With a solar cell, it can reach full power in just 1.5 hours of sunlight or in 10 hours of indoor light. The computer was built to monitor eye pressure for glaucoma patients, but the technology has other applications like monitoring pollution, performing surveillance, and tracking structural integrity.

Source: MSNBC