Eureka mo­ments

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - 2011 -

of both an­cient and modern hu­mans re­vealed that many hu­mans still carry vari­a­tions in their DNA that were in­her­ited from ar­chaic hu­mans who lived tens of thou­sands of years ago, such as the mys­te­ri­ous Deniso­vans in Asia and still-uniden­ti­fied an­ces­tors in Africa.

In vivid de­tail, re­searchers in Ja­pan have mapped the struc­ture of the pho­to­syn­thetic pro­tein used by plants to split water into hy­dro­gen and oxy­gen atoms. The find­ing may lead to a pow­er­ful source of clean en­ergy.

As­tronomers us­ing the Keck tele­scope in Hawaii to probe the far­away uni­verse wound up dis­cov­er­ing two clouds of hy­dro­gen gas that seem to have main­tained their orig­i­nal chem­istry for 2 bil­lion years af­ter the big bang.

The dis­cov­er­ies show that pock­ets of mat­ter per­sisted un­scathed amid eons of cos­mic vi­o­lence.

Re­search into the count­less mi­crobes that dwell in the hu­man gut demon­strated that ev­ery­one has a dom­i­nant bac­terium liv­ing in their digestive tract. The find­ings helped to clar­ify the in­ter­play be­tween diet and mi­crobes in nu­tri­tion and dis­ease.

Early re­sults of a pi­o­neer­ing clin­i­cal trial of a malaria vac­cine, known as RTS,S, in­volv­ing more than 15 000 chil­dren from seven African coun­tries, showed that dis­cov­er­ing a malaria vac­cine re­mains pos­si­ble.

As­tronomers had their first good views of sev­eral dis­tant plan­e­tary sys­tems and dis­cov­ered that things are pretty weird out there, in­clud­ing a star sys­tem with plan­ets or­bit­ing in ways that to­day’s mod­els can­not ex­plain; a planet caught in a rare “ret­ro­grade” or­bit; a planet cir­cling a bi­nary star sys­tem; and 10 plan­ets that seem to be freely float­ing in space. They are all un­like any­thing found in our own so­lar sys­tem.

This year, chemists de­signed a range of new ze­o­lites, por­ous min­er­als used as cat­a­lysts and molec­u­lar sieves, that are cheaper, thin­ner and bet­ter equipped to process larger or­ganic mol­e­cules.

Clear­ing senes­cent cells, or those that have stopped di­vid­ing, from the bod­ies of mice can de­lay the on­set of agere­lated symp­toms, such as cataracts and mus­cle weak­ness.

Mice whose bod­ies were cleared of these loi­ter­ing cells did not live longer than their un­treated cage-mates – but did seem to live bet­ter. – The Independent

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