SciTech Briefs

Galaxies hungry for other galaxies

Astronomers have long observed some stars in the cores of their galaxies orbiting in the opposite direction of their neighboring celestial bodies of the same galaxy. The leading explanation for this phenomenon is that these stars were once part of another, smaller galaxy that was eventually consumed by the galaxy in which it currently resides. Recently, researchers at La Laguna University in Tenerife, Spain found supporting evidence that the ages of stars in the core of the galaxy are much different than that of the outer stars, which would not be the case if all stars were created within the same galaxy.

Source: New Scientist

FDA: Artificial dyes are safe to eat

A committee of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last Thursday that there is no definitive proof that artificial food colorings cause hyperactivity in small children in an eight to six vote, and that no warning labels for the foods were necessary. However, they did vote that children with existing behavioral problems may see worsening in their behavior after eating foods with artificial dyes. This debate began in the 1970s when doctors began seeing improvements in the behaviors of children with hyperactivity disorders who were prescribed with diets excluding artificial coloring.

Source: The New York Times

Photos of Mercury starting to develop

NASA’s Mercury Messenger spacecraft arrived in the orbit of the closest planet to the sun on March 17, but recently began sending back pictures of Mercury. The trip to Mercury will be the last major planetary exploration performed by NASA for a while, but its spacecraft will study and photograph the planet while maintaining its orbit for at least the next year. This trip to Mercury will be the longest-sustained trip of its kind in history, helping to answer some of the remaining questions about the planet, such as why it has a magnetic field and which minerals make up its surface.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Improved replay for NCAA Final Four

XOS Digital, a digital-media service company, has designed a high-definition (HD) instant replay system for college basketball’s top games, the Final Four. Numerous close and contested in-play calls throughout the years have motivated players and coaches to suggest a better replay technology to address them. The new process hopes to give game officials a clearer measurement of how much time is left on a shot clock during any number of reviews during the games, in addition to other applications like foul calls or whether a shot was worth two or three points.

Source: Wired magazine

New hooks can save sea turtles

A type of hook used in longline fishing in Costa Rica has been shown to be selective in the type of fish it catches, reducing the number of sea turtles caught and injured due to the fishing industry. When researchers used a standard circle hook, they found that sea turtles and rays accounted for over 50 percent of the catch. Researchers found that “appendage hooks” dramatically reduced the number of sea turtles and rays caught, and thus have the potential to avoid harming the Costa Rican sea turtle population while allowing for the continued health of the fishing industry.

Source: Journal of Marine Biology

Tool helps assess risk of falling

New technology is being developed to help identify hospitalized patients who are at a risk of falling, particularly benefitting the elderly. To classify if a patient had a fall-risk, the researchers recorded the patient’s fall history over the past year and tested each patient with several standard clinical tests involving accelerometers that recorded the gait and movement during these tests. The results showed that patients could be classified into one of two categories: fallers and non-fallers.

Source: BioMedical Engineering OnLine