SciTech Briefs

Russia to launch unmanned probe to moon by 2015

Russia will resume exploring the moon by sending an unmanned probe, called the Luna-Globe or Moon-Globe, in 2015. Luna-Globe would have an orbital module and a probe that sends back information about samples from the moon.

The probe will be accompanied by three military satellites. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, the probe will be carried by the first rocket to blast off from Russia’s newly built facility in eastern Amur. The last time Russia successfully sent an unmanned probe to the moon was in the 1970s; Russia has yet to send a man to the moon.

Source: Reuters

'Goldenrod’ plant can respond to the scent of fruit flies

A study at Pennsylvania State University showed that solidago — commonly known as goldenrod — produces chemical defenses when it senses sex hormones released by male fruit flies. The plant releases an odor in response to repel female fruit flies, keeping them from laying their eggs on the goldenrod.

This is beneficial to the plant’s reproduction, since those that harbor fruit fly eggs tend to produce fewer and smaller seeds. “... it seems that plants may sometimes be able to smell the insects themselves,” said Mark Mescher, an entomologist at Penn State.

Source: Discovery News

New robotic fish can glide through water indefinitely

Scientists at Michigan State University constructed a robotic fish that glides through the water while using little to no energy. Its name is GRACE, which stands for Gliding Robot ACE, and it is 10 times smaller and lighter than other underwater gliders. It utilizes a hybrid mechanism of gliding and swimming.

Like an actual fish, GRACE has a bladder-like mechanism that pushes water in and out, allowing it to ascend and descend. GRACE gathers valuable data that aids the cleaning of rivers and lakes, and was recently released for a test run in the oil-contaminated Kalamazoo River.

Source: Science Daily

British weigh in on ‘third parent’ fertility treatments

The British public was consulted about the ethics of fertility treatment that uses DNA from a third parent to eliminate genetic diseases. According to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, some of these diseases can have mild to no symptoms while others can have fatal or life-shortening symptoms.

One in 200 children are born with mitochondrial disease and one in 6,500 British-born people suffer from severe symptoms. The proposed technique replaces mitochondrial DNA from the mother with healthy DNA from a “third parent.” Scientists and ethicists alike are concerned with future implicaions, such as the rights of the “third parent.”

Source: Discovery News

Autistic children can improve, lose diagnosis with age

The National Institute of Health confirmed that some autistic children lose their diagnosis as they grow older. Deborah Fein, a professor at the University of Connecticut, paired 34 optimal-outcome children diagnosed with autism early in life with 44 children with high-functioning autism.

Results showed the optimal-outcome children to have milder social deficits than the high-functioning autistic children. However, they had communication and behavioral problems that were just as severe of that in the latter group. Continuing studies may show whether it is the verbal IQ levels of the optimal-outcome children that caused their conditions to improve.

Source: Science Daily

Newly discovered quasar challenges physical principle

Astronomers discovered a group of quasars so large that they would require 4 billion years to cross while traveling at the speed of light. This large quasar group has dimensions of 500 megaparsecs, each measuring 3.3 million light years. This makes it 1,600 times longer than the distance from the Milky Way to our closest galaxy.

Roger Clowes, leader of the team researching this large quasar group, will continue to investigate the phenomenon while challenging the perfect cosmological principle. It states that when viewed from a distance, one part of the universe looks just like any other part.

Source: Reuters