SciTech Briefs

India launches maiden rocket to Mars

India launched its first rocket to Mars last Tuesday with the goal to complete the mission using less money than other nations have previously. Successful missions to Mars thus far have been completed by the United States, the European Union, and Russia; China attempted an unsuccessful mission two years ago. India’s probe costs only 4.5 billion rupees ($73 million), which is a fraction of the cost of NASA’s upcoming Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission. It has also been designed to orbit Earth six or seven times to build up momentum before being slingshotted to the red planet, in order to save fuel. The rocket is scheduled to enter Mars’s orbit by next September.

Source: Reuters

Discovery of Higgs only brings more mysteries

Joseph Lykken, a theorist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and Maria Spiropulu of the California Institute of Technology, conducted research that predicts that sometime in the distant future, a minuscule quantum fluctuation will cause the Higgs field to drop to a lower energy state. Since the Higgs field permeates all space, this seemingly small change would destroy reality as we know it in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, this is but one of many theories that have developed after the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, which seems to have caused more mysteries than it’s solved.

Source: The New York Times

Biologists study single-cell reproduction

While almost all multicellular organisms have evolved to reproduce using single cells, such as eggs and sperm, why this method became so universal has long puzzled scientists. To study this trait, University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow William Ratcliff and associate professor Michael Travisano have transformed a single-celled algae into a multicellular one that reproduces with single cells. Many scientists assumed that single-cell reproduction evolved much later than multicellularity, but their study yielded surprising results: Single-cell reproduction arose at the same time as multicellularity.

Source: Science Daily

Worldwide starfish deaths stump scientists

Starfish populations worldwide have fallen prey to the “seastar wasting syndrome,” which causes starfish to lose their arms. This disease usually occurs if the starfish is wounded or becomes too dry, and it grows infected lesions that lead to its arms falling off. While this disease usually only occurs to one or two starfish within a population and is not often lethal, millions of starfish from populations around the world have not only contracted the disease, but are unable to recover from it. While unusually warm waters may be a cause, the real culprit of this outbreak is yet is to be discovered, and scientists are unsure how long it will last.

Source: Time