Stories tagged Research findings

Did some big discovery just happen recently? Write up a quick description (1 or 2 lines) and link to a larger story elsewhere.

The human knee: a new ligament has been discovered in the leg joint.
The human knee: a new ligament has been discovered in the leg joint.Courtesy Andrew Scott
You'd think by now - after centuries of studying it - that we'd know everything there is to know about the human body. But this week surgeons at University Hospital Leuven in Belgium announced the discovery of a new ligament in the knee. Called the anterolateral ligament (ALL) the newly discovered body part attaches between the lower end of the femur and the head of the tibia, reinforcing the connection between the two bones. The unknown ligament came to light as the doctors investigated the causes of difficulties patients suffered during rehabilitation from ACL tears, a common injury among some athletes.

Interestingly, it was a paper written by a French surgeon in the 19th century that led the doctors to the ligament. The author of an 1879 paper postulated the ALL's existence but it took until now for it to be actually located. The two doctors who discovered it say the ligament exists in about 97 percent of all patients.

SOURCES and LINKS
Journal of Anatomy paper
ScienceDaily story

Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.
Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
We've documented the travails leading to the demise of young King Tut many times here on Science Buzz. But headlines today just add more fuel to the King Tut woe fire (so to speak). Tests done on a small fragment of Tut's mummy that is held in Great Britain show that his mummy caught fire. And that fire, researchers believe, occurred after Tut was mummified and entombed in his sarcophagus through spontaneous combustion from the mixture of embalming oils, wrapping fabric and oxygen. A virtual autopsy done as part of this research also concludes that Tut died from being run over by a chariot. All in all, not a very good day of news for young King Tut.

The above title is the opening verse from the song "As Time Goes By" heard in the classic film "Casablanca", and serves nicely as an explanation of psychologist and memory manipulation expert Elizabeth Loftus's work in memory, and specifically the ability to alter or plant false memories. As she explains in this recent TEDTalk, her investigations into the field of how, why, and what we remember have not only led to some very interesting insights, but also threats, and even lawsuits.

You're dead to me!: Recent tests by the Curiosity rover has failed to find signs of current life on Mars,
You're dead to me!: Recent tests by the Curiosity rover has failed to find signs of current life on Mars,Courtesy NASA
Curiosity, one of the robotic explorers currently investigating the Martian environment presented NASA scientists with a bit of a set-back this week with a report that the rover has failed to detect any signs of methane on Mars. Several tests were conducted on the Red Planet over an eight month period but none produced any signs that microbial life was emitting the signature gas into the atmosphere.

"It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration. "As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don't generate methane."

NASA news release

For a long time, scientists have known a major volcano complex was under the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan. But upon further inspection, they've discovered it's one huge volcano, measuring 280 miles by 400 miles across. You can read more about this huge discovery right here.

Water proves to be the best solvent for nanomachines
Water proves to be the best solvent for nanomachinesCourtesy Welome Images
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have found that nanomachines work more efficiently when water is added as a "lubricant". Nanomachines are structures just one molecule in size (a few dozen atoms or so) that do work. When researchers added a small amount of water to the solvent that surrounded the nanomachines, the machines moved much faster.

Discovering how to optimize these tiny machines is important for the development of things like molecular computers and surfaces that can change properties.

Researchers are developing nanobots that can destroy plaque build-up in arteries. These nanobots have a magnetic core, which allows physicians to track their position in the bloodstream in real-time. The physicians can then control the bots' movements and plaque destruction via a remote monitor, like an MRI.

This means that, in the future, plaque build-up could be removed without surgery, or other invasive medical procedures. Pretty cool!

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Girls, girls, girls!: Recent studies have shown that more girls than boys are born during times of stress. The skewed gender ratio of births following the huge 2011 Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami adds further evidence.
Girls, girls, girls!: Recent studies have shown that more girls than boys are born during times of stress. The skewed gender ratio of births following the huge 2011 Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami adds further evidence.Courtesy Sprengben [why not get a friend]
A new study shows that more girls than boys were born in the months following Japan's massive earthquake in 2011. Normally, natural gender selection is pretty much 50-50, as would be expected. But after the huge 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, Ralph Catalano and his colleagues compared 5 years of hospital records, and found that about 2.2 percent fewer boys were born than during other times. Catalano, professor of public health at the University of California in Berkeley, thinks the reason might be for evolutionary reasons, and that hormones and more chances of miscarriages with male fetuses increase the likelihood of a female being born during times of high stress. It's not the first time the gender imbalance has been noticed. Earlier studies (in which Catalano was also involved) have shown that after the 9/11 attacks, more male fetuses didn't make it to term, and fewer male births followed the stock market crash of 2008. The latest study appeared in a recent issue of the American Journal of Human Biology.

SOURCE
New Scientist story

Maya frieze discovery: Archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli looks at the frieze discovered at the Holmul Archaeological Project.
Maya frieze discovery: Archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli looks at the frieze discovered at the Holmul Archaeological Project.Courtesy Francisco Estrada-Belli
One of the largest and most vibrant archaeological discoveries of the Maya culture was announced yesterday.

Archaeologists have uncovered a 30-foot by 6-foot frieze inside the base of a pyramid depicting deified Maya rulers. Much of the frieze's red, blue and yellow paint has been preserved by debris that had fallen over the frieze. Here's a link to the full report of the finding by archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli’s team at the Holmul Archaeological Project in Guatemala.

“This is a unique find. It is a beautiful work of art and it tells us so much about the function and meaning of the building, which was what we were looking for,” said Estrada-Belli. The carving depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers. The team had hoped to find clues to the function of this building, since the unearthing of an undisturbed tomb last year. The burial contained an individual accompanied by 28 ceramic vessels and a wooden funerary mask.

The full frieze: Here's a panoramic view of the full frieze found in Guatemala.
The full frieze: Here's a panoramic view of the full frieze found in Guatemala.Courtesy Francisco Estrada-Belli

Using semiconductor nanowire transistors, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created a flexible sensor that lights up when touched. The harder it's pressed the brighter the lights. It's paper-thin, flexible nature could allow it to be laminated to any surface, which is quite different from the rigid touchscreens we find on iPhones, computer screens, and ATMs, for example. This new technology could be used to give robots a finer sense of touch, create a wallpaper that doubles as a touchscreen, or laminate dashboards to allow drivers to change electronic controls by waving their hand.

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