Thursday, 29 August 2013

Atomic number 115.

The periodic table is a very familiar sight to scientists and non scientists alike. The modern day periodic table was first produced in 1869 by Dimitri Mendeleev, who arranged elements according to their atomic number. The highest atomic number in the current periodic table is 103, however this could all be about to change.

A new element with an atomic number of 115 has been presented alongside new groundbreaking evidence. This element had first been discovered by Russian scientists in 2004, but is still awaiting verification 9 years on, by the chemistry and physics governing bodies.

The new evidence was presented by a Swedish team this year, and it explains the element's high radioactivity levels and consequently it's extremely short half life. A half life is the time taken for an element to decompose, and the new element 115, has a half life of less than a second.

Although this new element has not yet been verified it is in good hands with the GSI research unit in Germany who have discovered 6 other new elements previously.

This could potentially mean that a new periodic table may be required soon, but first this new element needs to be verified and gain a name.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Prehistoric Cook.

When we cook, many of us decide to jazz up the flavour of our food by adding a few spices. The idea of adding a bit more spice to our lives is not something which stems from recent times, it could be said that being a bit of a culinary whizz runs in the family: our prehistoric family.

As soon as the phase prehistoric is mentioned, I happen to think of bumbling cave people, dressed in leopard print, wielding either a spear or a club, and with back combed, unruly hair not a person who is able to season their food, to gain the maximum flavour in order to enjoy their meal to their fullest potential.

However, Dr Hayley Saul from The University of York led a research team who discovered the remains of garlic mustard on the surface of shards of pottery from Denmark and Germany. The shards were carbon dated between 5,800 and 6,150 years ago. Alongside the residue of garlic mustard, evidence of fat residue from meats and fish were also found, suggesting the usage of the mustard to be purely for flavour as it contains little to no nutritional value.

This has not been the first case of seasoning discovered to be in use during prehistoric times, as coriander was found to be used in Israel 23,000 years ago. But it is a first in regards to prehistoric Europe.

So the next time, the word prehistoric is mentioned do not think of the bumbling cave person, instead imagine the people who first used spice to season their food.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Where are they? Over Hair!

The idea of tracking animals has been in force for many years. The information gained from such a tracking mechanism, enables scientists and conservationists a first hand look into the life of the particular animal and the many journeys which it undertakes in it's life. Generally the sort of animals tracked are fairly large, so birds, turtles and sharks are animals which initially spring to mind.

But in a world's first; ants are going to be tracked.

1,000 Hairy Wood Ants have been fitted with radio transmitters( on the top of their exoskeleton abdomens) via the use of a special adhesive. The Northern Hairy Wood Ants have a near threatened status and are found mostly in the north of England in the Peak District and up on the Yorkshire Moors.

The ants will be tracked with their whereabouts and what they are carrying. The evidence collected could be used to understand how ants communicate and travel between their various nests.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The big 5-0!

Explorers, we made it!

Happy 50th post to The Science Tree.

I started this blog to encourage more people to enjoy science and to spread my passion for a subject I have enjoyed studying and will continue to enjoy studying for the rest of my academic life. So I don't see this blog as a task, I instead see it as a way to share my love for a subject with others. Even if 1 person reads my post it makes me happy to know that, I shared some aspect of science with them.

Explorer 50 fact: 50 is the sum of 3 consecutive square numbers.
2nd Explorer 50 fact: an ant can lift 50x its own weight

Stop! Burger Time

I know that it's not the usual day for posts, but this caught my eye and I thought I must share it with you guys.

A test-tube burger has been created in London, and eaten by people at a press conference. 

Scientists from Maastricht univeristy took stem cells from a cow and then differentiated them into muscle cells and allowed them to grow into strips and made a burger from them.

This burger research cost £215,000, and I guess some would say this new development in growing edible things from a Petri dish could potentially help to end world hunger.

Tasters of the burger said it had the taste and feel of a regular burger, but was leaner and had less fat and hence was less juicy. Obviously this lab-grown version of a meat beef burger is going to be unable to replace the traditional burgers which we have grown to love. But it does show the understanding which scientists have about stem cells and the capability of producing food without using vast areas of land and generating a lot of greenhouse gas. So maybe, just maybe, this could be a new frontier for food production.

All I know is that I for one will be sticking to the regular burgers, until this new frontier has been fully explored.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

We're running WILD!

They say safety in numbers is useful when in the wild. How about if you were bred in captivity and then released into the wild? I'm rather sure that safety in numbers would still be applicable.

However I'm more interested in the development of spatial awareness.

A study was carried out with 1 year old salmon fish. They were raised in either a plain tank or a tank filled with all the things that fun-loving fish enjoy, like pebbles, weeds and other plants (this is the 'enriched' environment). The salmon who grew up in the 'enriched' environment had a better ability to navigate themselves out of a maze compared to the salmon who were raised in the empty tank.

This study links into previous studies of mammals who were born into captivity and it shows that by having stimulation in their immediate environment apparently has increased their chance of survival when released into the wild! Although this was initially discovered in mammals, this has been a fishy first!.

The nitty-gritty science results of the study was that the fish in the 'enriched' environment exhibited changes in the mRNA in their brains, which is linked to spatial awareness.

This can provide a crucial turning point for the conservation of fish, allowing their environment to be tailored to increase their chance at surviving in the wilderness.

So if you happen to find an egg or a small animal that you want to hand rear, be sure to create a stimulating environment for it to grow up in; so that when it is released into the wild, it will be able to fend for itself like a real life wild thing.