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Science


— Space

First high speed laser communication satellite set for launch

Space-based laser communications are moving out of the testing phase and into orbit as the first satellite in the European DAta Relay System (EDRS), or SpaceDataHighway, prepares for launch at the end of January. Likened to having a fiber optic cable in space, the 1.8 Gigabit per second system is a joint public–private partnership between Airbus Defence and Space and ESA that will act as a relay system between ground stations, satellites, and aircraft.

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— Space

The Solar System may really have nine planets

There's good news for those who were annoyed when Pluto was knocked off the list of planets. According to a pair of scientists at Caltech, there may actually be nine planets in the Solar System after all. Researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown say that a planet ten times the mass of Earth may be circling the Sun in a highly elliptical orbit 20 times the distance of Neptune or 36 billion mi (60 billion km), with a year of 10,000 to 20,000 Earth years.

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— Medical

Light-activated quantum dots successfully combat drug-resistant bacteria

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are an increasingly big problem for global health. They kill in excess of 23,000 people in the US every year, with their ability to rapidly develop an immunity to antibiotic treatments making them extremely difficult to eradicate. Now, new research being conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder has found that tiny light-activated particles known as quantum dots might be useful in tackling the infections.

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— Environment

Breaking down humanity's contribution to climate change

Over the past 100 years, global temperatures have risen by an average amount of 0.8° C (1.4° F), which according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is due largely to humanity's release of pollutants into the atmosphere. Now an international team of researchers has analyzed almost 40 years worth of data in order to quantify exactly what fraction of the change can be attributed to mankind based on events and trends in different regions.

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— Medical

Electrically-trained muscle cells get damaged hearts pumping

Repairing damaged hearts with healthy cells derived from the patient's own skin or blood is a promising approach to tackling cardiovascular disease, but it does have its limitations. Difficulty in getting the young, freshly implanted cells to integrate and beat in-synch with the surrounding muscle has so far held the technique back. Now scientists are reporting an important advance in this area, demonstrating for the first time that electrically stimulating the new cells can give their development a critical boost.

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— Medical

MRIs could soon be quicker and safer

While MRI scans may not expose patients to the ionizing radiation found in X-rays, they still are potentially harmful. This is because the increased radiofrequency energy absorption associated with newer high-field and ultra-high-field MRI scanners can heat body tissue. Thanks to research being conducted at the Australian National University, however, that may soon no longer be an issue – additionally, scans could be quicker and produce higher-quality images.

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— Medical

Dissolvable sensors could soon be used to wirelessly monitor the human brain

Even though as many as 50,000 people die of traumatic brain injuries in the United States every year, the equipment used to measure vital stats like intracranial pressure is usually made up of decades-old technology. To address this, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a new sensor that's far less invasive and much safer than the existing technology.

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