Thursday, 2 January 2014

That was so last year!

What with this post being the first Science Tree post of the new year (2014!!), it only seems appropriate to take a look back at the top 5 events which have happened in science last year.

The top 5 countdown

5. The discoverers of the Higgs-Boson particle were awarded the Nobel Prize for 'postulating the existence of a particle which gives mass to all others'. Amazingly legendary Physicist Stephen Hawkings said it would have been more astonishing and beneficial to Physics if the particle hadn't been found!

4. Chewing popcorn whilst watching the adverts at the start of the film in a cinema, has been found to confer an "advertising-immunity" to us. When we read something in our mind (not out loud), it is read by a little voice, known in the physiological world as 'inner speech'; and it is this voice when we watch adverts which practices imprinting the brand name in our mind; so we remember the logo or the sign for a particular brand. By eating popcorn this does not happen and so....we are less receptive to advertising.

3. Ever had trouble with your memory? Well these mice certainly did. They were 'lucky' enough to have a false memory implanted into their mind, via the manipulation of single neurons. The neuroscientists engineered brain cells in the hippocampus (the part responsible for memory) to express a gene called channelrhodopsin, and a Pavlov type of experiment was carried out on them. They were allowed to explore a cage and when given an electric shock a blue light was shone on them which activated the gene. The following day the mice were put in a different chamber and a blue light was shone on them and they got scared, even though they were not shocked and in a completely different chamber. The mice had recalled their 'memories' from the previous day of the first chamber.

2. We have heard of a test-tube baby, but 2013 was the year of the test-tube burger(!) generated from cow muscle stem cells and grown in a lab. The burger was sampled for the first time on live TV. Thoughts on the burger were mixed but it took Maastricht University 3 months to grow the cells, whilst it took food critics minutes to consume.

1. Little Connor Levy was the first US child to have his entire genome scanned for genetic abnormalities via the use of Next-generation sequencing. This method of scanning reads each individual letter checking for anything which could lead to disease or abnormal chromosomes which could have increased the chance of his mother miscarrying. Obviously it was a success as little Connor is alive and kicking in the US of A!

So that was a whirlwind whistle-stop roundup of some of the best science news last year had to offer. Hopefully this year holds just as many, if not as captivating and ground-breaking events and breakthroughs as last year had to offer.

Happy 2014 Explorers!

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