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SciTech Briefs

Numbers set for climate change

The U.N. Climate Panel officially established a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions last Friday, which if not adhered to, could result in irreversible climate change. The panel found that once global temperatures rise more than 3.6˚F above that of preindustrial times, we will begin to witness the most dangerous effects of climate change. To keep below this level, no more than one trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases can be burned and emitted into the atmosphere. According to calculations by Myles R. Allen of the University of Oxford, this limit will be exhausted by 2040.

Source: The New York Times

No sleep may lead to development of chronic conditions

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the inability to sleep soundly may be linked to chronic conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, anxiety, and obesity in adults 45 and older. According to M. Safwan Badr of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, obtaining seven to nine hours of sleep is crucial to reaping the health benefits of sleep, particularly for those with chronic conditions. For this reason, Badr recommends that adults with chronic diseases who suffer from sleep disorders should undergo treatment, as resolving their sleep issues could significantly alleviate their symptoms.

Source: Science Daily

Increasing amount of debris hazardous for space station

Human-induced pollution has recently extended beyond the boundaries of Earth. The probes, rockets, and satellites sent into space over the past few decades have accumulated into hundreds of thousands of pieces of fast moving debris. The international space station and its crew have come into multiple close encounters with this debris within the past few years. Because of its fast orbital speed, as little as one centimeter of this debris could destroy a spacecraft. Although the risk of the debris falling to Earth and doing any damage is relatively low, the collecting debris continues to pose a threat to the international space station.

Source: Scientific American

Algorithm may be behind biological phenomena

Algorithms are the fundamentals of modern technology, but Probably Approximately Correct, a book by Leslie Valiant of Harvard University’s computer science department, suggests that their importance dates back much further. Valiant claims that algorithms permeate most aspects of biology, including evolution.
Valiant argues that if the mutation of species occurred at random, then natural selection would have occurred at a much slower rate. He concludes that it is more likely that natural selection is supplemented by biological algorithms that help organisms adapt to their environment more efficiently.

Source: The New York Times

Possible delay for rover proposals

NASA recently put out an open call for scientists to submit proposals suggesting science and technology instruments that will be put on the next Mars Rover, originally scheduled to depart in 2020. The goal of the new rover will be to find evidence of life suggested by Curiosity, and to test technologies that may one day enable humans to land and live on Mars. However, the Nov. 15 deadline for proposals may be delayed if the government is still shut down during this time period.

Source: LiveScience

Centipede venom may fight pain

New research on mice show that a venom found in centipedes may eliminate pain as effectively as morphine. Researchers injected mice with the isolated compound, called Ssm6a, and found that the mice had fewer signs of pain when subjected to stimuli. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ssm6a works by blocking a pain channel in the body. Because the pain channel is in the periphery nervous system, drugs that block it would not cause side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness.

Source: ScienceNews