SciTech Briefs

Snails carry foreign eggs on their backs

Scientists recently found that a species of snails called solenosteira macrospira carry eggs that don’t belong to them on their backs. In most snail species, the female deposits the eggs into sand or attaches them to a rock after fertilization. However, female solenosteira macrospira attach their eggs onto their partners’ backs. Snails have several partners during their mating period, so these eggs often don’t belong to the snail they end up attached to.

Suzanne Alonzo, an ecology professor at Yale University, explained why a male snail would agree to this: “So as long as he mates with [a female] and sires a bunch of offspring, it doesn’t really matter if they’re on his back or someone else’s back.”

Source: NPR

‘Junk’ DNA plays crucial role in body

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz recently found out that parts of DNA previously considered to be useless are actually essential in making the body function properly. About 80 percent of what scientists previously considered “junk” DNA acts as a switch for other parts of the DNA. Scientists previously thought only 5 to 10 percent of DNA was useful.

This “junk” controls which parts of the DNA will be active and scientists have linked these gene switches to everything from rheumatoid arthritis to height. This discovery could provide certain cancer treatments by controlling the switches that might lead to cancer instead of attempting to control the disease itself.

Source: The New York Times

Scientists teleport quantum states

A team of scientists in Vienna transmitted tiny pieces of information known as quantum states over 143 kilometers using quantum teleportation. Scientists encoded this information into photons, and then transferred these photons between the Canary Islands of La Palma and Tenerife. The distance of 143 kilometers was used as the milestone since it is the minimum distance between the Earth and orbiting satellites.

Scientists argue the technology is useful for applications in secure communication and that one of its advantages over other communications technology is that it can theoretically work over any distance without taking additional time as distance increases.

Source: Science Daily

Deep-sea crabs color-code food

Crabs that live a half-mile deep in the ocean may be using a novel way to protect themselves from toxic food. While these crabs don’t see sunlight, they are sensitive to blue and ultraviolet (UV) light. Duke University biologist Sönke Johnsen explained that the crabs use their sensitivity to “sort out the likely toxic corals they’re sitting on, which glow, or bioluminesce, blue-green and green, from the plankton they eat, which glow blue.”

Certain crab species were found to have separate channels for processing blue and UV light, giving them a form of color vision they could use to pick out food. Next, the researchers have to test these crabs in conditions closer to their natural habitat.

Source: Science Daily

Voyager 1 will soon leave solar system

For a machine with only 68 kilobytes of memory and an eight-track tape recorder, the Voyager 1 has accomplished a lot in its 35 years of exploration. For the last few months, Voyager 1 has been exploring a turbulent and hot plasma bubble at the edge of the solar system. Once the satellite leaves the outer edge, it is expected to encounter a much calmer climate.

Scientists have recently seen new data coming in from the spacecraft, which originally departed Earth in 1977, that shows the spacecraft is at the edge of crossing over. Given that the Voyager 1 has enough fuel to last until 2020, there should be plenty of time for scientists to get information about stars they’ve never had access to before.

Source: Bay News 9

Exploding stars may affect climate

The temperature on Earth could be affected in part by forces beyond human control, like how often stars explode. “When a star explodes, a massive amount of cosmic rays enter the atmosphere affecting the weather in space by making it cloudier. More clouds in space leads to the Earth’s atmosphere, being cooler,” astrophysicist Charles Wang of Scotland’s University of Aberdeen said. Hence, the more stars that explode in a year, the cooler the Earth’s temperature will be, according to Wang. On average, one stars explodes in every galaxy every year, releasing a huge amount of energy and cosmic rays.