SciTech Briefs

Consuming berries is ‘berry good’ for your brain

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston recently found that women who ate berries frequently over a period of a few years showed less decrease in brain function than women who consumed berries less frequently. The team surveyed 16,000 women in their 50s and 60s about their eating habits and had them complete a series of cognitive tests when the women reached their 70s. Information about the women’s education, income, and other socioeconomic factors that may affect cognitive functioning were considered in the analysis.

The findings showed that women who consumed berries at least once a week were able to prolong their normal cognitive functioning by 1.5 to 2.5 years. The cognitive benefits of eating berries is not an entirely new finding, but past studies only involved animals and a small number of people.

Source: Time magazine

Potential biological cure for ‘concrete cancer’

A team of engineers at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, are developing a technique of healing cracks in concrete and preventing further cracks from developing. The trick? Bacteria.

Alan Richardson, senior lecturer in construction at Northumbria University, uses a species of ground-borne bacteria called bacillus megaterium that can feed off yeast, urea, and minerals present in concrete. Once the bacteria consumes the nutrients, it breeds and spreads throughout the concrete, blocking pores, filling cracks, and preventing further deterioration from occurring. Richardson hopes that this technique could be the future cure for “concrete cancer,” which is caused by the swelling and breaking of concrete which does billions of dollars of damage to buildings.

Source: ScienceDaily

MIT researchers create dust- and dirt-repelling glass

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a technique for producing glass that prevents fogging and glare and resists dirt and water. The glass surface contains tiny nanotextures that interact with light in a way that yields no glare. The nanotextures are also able to repel water, dust, and dirt, keeping the surface of the glass clean.

The team hopes that the glass can eventually be produced inexpensively and used in common applications like smartphone and television screens, as well as car windshields. Even solar panels, the team argues, could significantly benefit from this technology since they can lose efficiency over time as their glass surfaces accumulate dirt and hinders their ability absorb energy from the sun.

Source: MIT News

Thinking in foreign tongues yields more rational decisions

A recent study shows that thinking through a problem in a non-native language leads to more rational decision-making. In one experiment in the study, researchers gave participants $15 each. For $1, they could bet on a coin toss. If they won, they received an additional $1.50, but if they lost, they received nothing. Statistically, the researchers explained, the participants would have made money in the experiment if they always chose to bet.

The team found that when the native English speakers were given instructions in Spanish, they chose to bet more often than participants who were given instructions in English. The researchers concluded that a foreign language has less emotional resonance; those instructed in English likely focused on the fear of losing each bet, while those instructed in Spanish reacted less emotionally.

Source: ScienceDaily

Warm ocean water chipping away at Antarctica’s ice

Most of the ice being lost from the Antarctic ice sheet is a result of warm ocean water eating away at the edges of the continent, according to a recent study. The team, led by the British Antarctic Survey, used a satellite laser to track the size and movement of the outer edges of the continent, which consist of ice shelves that jut out over the ocean waters.

The team found that the shrinking of the ice shelves could not be explained by the presence of warm air alone. Instead, they concluded that warm ocean water is likely melting the ice sheets from below. The scientists explained that this finding could significantly affect estimates of sea-level rise due to the loss of Antarctic ice loss induced by a warming climate.

Source: BBC News

Study finds specific cells in birds’ brains aid in navigation

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas recently identified cells in pigeons’ brains that allow birds to map out Earth’s magnetic field, which the birds utilize in their navigation. The team found evidence that the cells in the birds’ brains record information about the strength and direction of the magnetic field, and that the information is likely coming from the birds’ inner ears.

The basic steps of how birds navigate by magnetism were generally known beforehand, but the details of how and where that information was recorded within the birds’ brains had been unknown.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette