SciTech Briefs

Nobel Prize goes to two American chemists

Scientists Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for interpreting how the human body senses and responds to signals from the outside world. Their discovery, including the detection of receptor molecules between adrenaline and cells, has provided an intricate understanding of the human body and has aided greatly in drug development.

According to Sven Lidin of the Royal Swedish Academy, the receptors discovered by Lefkowitz and Kobilka “are the target of half of all drugs.” Lefkowitz, a medical professor at Duke University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, and Kobilka, a medical professor at Stanford University, will share the $1.2 million.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Researchers explore black hole energy blasts

A team of astrophysicists may have unlocked the mystery of what makes black holes spew energy back out. Black holes have a gravitational pull so strong that they will consume anything near them, and they have been observed to spew out energy jets from previously-consumed matter.

Astrophysicists at the Haystack Observatory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used radio telescopes to observe a jet spewing from a black hole in a galaxy about 54 million light- years away. The energy jet came from near the innermost edge of the accretion disk, the last point at which the matter can move in a constant orbit. The team has speculated that the blasts occur because magnetic fields within the orbiting material in the hole become twisted and carry energy away through an electromagnetic blast.

Source: Time magazine

Massive galaxies often collide with each other

Astronomers at the University of Utah found evidence of repeated collisions between massive galaxies. The galaxies, which contain close to a trillion stars, are the end result of the merging of many smaller galaxies. Astronomers have observed that they have become denser at the center over time, which can only occur when two galaxies of similar size collide.

“If you have two roughly comparable galaxies and they are on a collision course, each one penetrates more toward the center of the other, so more mass ends up in the center,” explained Adam Bolton, the principal author of the study. The study is a joint effort between the University of Utah, The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and 20 other research institutes worldwide.

Source: Science Daily

New iPhone app able to monitor ear infections

Researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University have developed the “Remotoscope.” It makes the iPhone function as an otoscope, the instrument doctors use to check their patients’ ears. The idea behind the app is to enable parents to regularly take pictures of their child’s ear and send the images to pediatricians so they can supervise infections.

It functions by putting a scope over the phone’s camera lens, facilitating capturing images of the ear canal, and magnifying the images. The app is currently undergoing clinical trials, with the hope that the results may be published by the end of the year.

Eyeball of unknown species found on Florida shore

While walking on Pompano Beach, Fla., Gino Covacci stumbled across what he claimed was “the biggest eyeball he had ever seen.” According to Covacci, the eyeball seemed to have recently been separated from the creature it belonged to, as it was bleeding when discovered.

He turned the eyeball over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has preserved it in formaldehyde to observe it further. So far, the most likely source of the eyeball seems to be a large fish, such as a swordfish. However, there is not yet certainty as to what creature it belonged to.


Kellogg’s cereal may contain metal fragments

Kellogg has issued a recall on its product, Mini-Wheats, because the cereal may contain metal fragments. The company has defended itself, claiming to have had a thorough metal detection program, using magnets and metal detection devices. “We are working with our metal detector supplier to understand why the equipment did not detect the mesh fragments,” Kellogg’s officials explained through an online statement. No injuries or incidences have been reported

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette