Saturday, June 16, 2018

New Study Shows Relationship Between Ghrelin and Alcohol

 Image credit: Michal Jarmoluk

According to a recent study, Ghrelin (a hormone synthesized by endocrine cells of the stomach) may be a new promising target in developing novel medications for alcohol use disorder.

Ghrelin plays a role in the brain’s reward and stress pathways from preclinical studies, however it was never observed on alcohol.

Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues conducted a proof-of-concept human laboratory study consisting of two experiments: alcohol self-administration and brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Participants were alcohol-dependent heavy-drinking (>15 and >20 standard drinks/week for women and men, respectively) individuals. They received either ghrelin or placebo. The results turned out that ghrelin increased the urge for alcohol infusions compared to the placebo.

Quote from Dr. Lorenzo, “These data indicate that ghrelin signaling affects alcohol seeking in humans.”

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Photo of the Week

This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature a jaw-dropping photo of the Milky Way. Taken in the Chilean Atacama desert by photographer Luis Cal├žada, this 20 second exposure demonstrates the effects of taking photos in locations unaffected by light pollution. With over 80 percent of the world's population living under skyglow, the sights of the Milky Way are quickly becoming sights only restricted to LED screens.

For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Cal├žada's Flickr at

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cosmic Glow Discovered to Be Caused by Nanadiamonds

 Astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array have discovered that diamond dust is responsible for a mysterious glow emanating from certain areas of the Milky Way Galaxy. This mysterious glow is known as the anomalous microwave emission (AME).
 In the new study ,astronomers were searching for AME light in 14 newborn star systems across the Milky Way. In three of these systems, these emissions were found emanating from planet-forming disks of dust and gas swirling around the stars. The unique infrared-light signatures of nanodiamonds - carbon crystals far smaller than a grain of sand - in these same three systems.
 This study is "good news for those who study polarization of the cosmic microwave background, since the signal from spinning nanodiamonds would be weakly polarized at best," said co-author Brian Mason, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virgina. "This means that astronomers can now make better models of the foreground microwave light from our galaxy, which must be removed to study the distant afterglow of the Big Bang."

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NASA's Curiosity Rover Detects Organic Material, Methane on Mars

 NASA's Curiosity Rover has detected new evidence of ancient organic matter preserved in rocks on Mars. Further evidence of methane in the atmosphere supports the theory of the existence of ancient life on the Red Planet.
 'Tough' organic molecules were discovered in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface. Although commonly associated with life, these organic molecules can be created through non-biological processes and are not a certain indicator of life.
 In a second paper, scientists detailed the findings of Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. It was found that there was seasonal variations in methane levels in the Martian atmosphere over the course of almost three Martian years, which equates to close to six Earth years. Similarly to the organic molecules, these variations could have been generated by abiotic processes such as water-rock chemistry, but scientists cannot also rule out the possibility of biological origins. These findings demonstrate that low levels of methane peak during warm, summer months and drop off during winter each year.
 “With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Concept of Zero Recognized in Honeybees

Photo: Pexels

While the concept of zero has become instinctive to modern humanity, the numeric systems of ancient human civilizations indicate a prior lack of a complete comprehension of the concept. However, the concept of zero is no longer considered a concept exclusive to humanity as scientists are discovering other vertebrates capable of grasping the concept. Notably, RMIT University researcher Adrian Dyer and co-authors provide evidence in a recent study that supports the notion that honeybees can comprehend zero.

Dyer explains the team’s inspiration behind the study, “We’ve long believed only humans had the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown monkeys and birds have the brains for it as well. What we haven’t known — until now — is whether insects can also understand zero.” To test the knowledge of zero, bees were lured to a testing apparatus and trained to select the image with the fewest elements. Despite a lack exposure to empty sets, when a set containing no elements was displayed, the bees recognized these images were lower than images that displayed any elements.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

This Week in Science History: Neptunium

On June 8, 1940, the element neptunium was discovered. It was synthesized by American physicist Edwin M. McMillan and chemist Philip H. Abelson after they bombarded uranium with neutrons to cause nuclear fission. Neptunium is a radioactive element and was the first transuranium (meaning “beyond uranium” and therefore any element after uranium) element to be artificially produced. It is atomic number 93. Traces of neptunium have been found in nature in uranium ores, but are very rare. The element was named after the planet Neptune. Neptunium is hazardous as the radiation it gives off can cause serious health problems through cell damage and thus potentially creating tumors.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Photo of the Week

This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature an amazing shot of the Moon. Taken by Enrico Punzo, this lovely zoomed-in shot of the Moon features the Copernicus Crater in all of its glory. Located in eastern Oceanus Procellarum, this crater is found slightly northwest of the centre of the Moon's Earth-facing hemisphere and is visible using binoculars. This shot was made possible using a @celestronuniverse C8 taken from Milan.
For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Punzo's Instagram @punzoenrico at