This Week in Science

Physics:
Antimatter, the strange substance made infamous in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, has recently been used in an experiment to test the possibility of anti-gravity. Researchers at CERN in Switzerland theorize that due to antimatter’s opposite charge compared to normal matter, it may “fall up” instead of down. The project is specifically looking at anti-hydrogen, since hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe.

Psychology:
A study out of the University of South Wales has found that men with beards are ranked as more attractive and having superior parenting ability by both women and other men. The study also found that heavily-bearded men were ranked as those with the highest perceived parenting ability, but men with an intermediate level of beardedness were ranked as the most attractive. The most attractive level of beardedness for men was reached after an average of 10 days of growth.

Robotics:
A group of baseball enthusiasts and scientists at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo have just built a robot with a 100,000-neuron “brain” that can play baseball. The robot holds a fan-shaped bat and swings at balls that are launched at it. It usually misses the first few pitches, but the brain has the ability to learn, and eventually reaches a very high batting average. The fake brain is similar to the graphics processors in our computers, and emulates a brain with about 100,000 neurons — the average human brain has about 14 billion.

Astronomy:
On April 29, the Herschel Space Observatory, the largest infrared telescope ever built, was forever shut down. The telescope, which is in orbit around Earth, ran out of the liquid helium that it used to make highly detailed infrared images. The mirror on Herschel is about 1.5 times as large as the mirror on the Hubble telescope, and was able to form images from the darkest, coldest parts of the universe that were invisible to all other telescopes.

Environment:
As of this week, global CO2 concentrations have nearly reached a worrisome milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm). The location, or sentinel spot, on top of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, uses an infrared analyzer and measured levels of CO2 not seen for a few million years. Instead of a successful milestone, this marks a very troubling discovery that will make it nearly impossible to avoid the 2-degree-Celsius increase limit that many governments have vowed not to exceed. After the 400 ppm mark is reached, it will be very difficult to halt, let alone reverse, the negative effects of global climate change.

Internet:
April 30 marks an important date for humanity: the creation of the World Wide Web and the first website. The internet as we know it was first invented at CERN (the location of the Large Hadron Collider) by Tim Berners-Lee to transfer files and information between networks at the research institute. As a commemoration, CERN is restoring the first website ever created, along with its original URL and even the original servers it was hosted on.

Health:
Researchers from the UCSD Scripps Institute have recently found an antibody than can turn our bone marrow stem cells into healthy, functioning brain cells. This is an important discovery, as it shows the ability to create new brain cells out of a patients’ own cellular material. Antibodies were originally thought to be part of the immune function to fight bacteria and viruses, but they are now known to have many other functions, including the production of neural progenitor cells.

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