This week in Sunday Science: curious facts about survival and aging, a new understanding of asthma, extra-galactic planets and 3D images projected onto thin air…
It’s well-known that, despite the vast majority undergoing the rigours of childbirth, women live longer than men. It’s why evolution favours a slightly biased birth ratio of around 105 male : 100 female births, so that the sexes are roughly 50:50 by the time they reach reproductive age. An interesting but somewhat grim study on survival under conditions of extreme mortality, such as disease epidemics and starvation, reveals that in general this still holds true – women survive better than men (generally) even under terrible conditions. The gap is largely attributable to female infants surviving better than male ones.
Also on the theme of longevity, naked mole rats (featured image) don’t have an increased risk of dying as they get older. This seems to defy what is known as Gompertz’s mortality law, which states that the risk of death for a typical mammal grows exponentially after they reach sexual maturity. This suggests that these unusual animals don’t age in the conventional sense. Original article here.
A new explanation for why the airways close up in asthma has been discovered. It’s to do with an overproduction of mucus being stimulated by immune cells. This offers another potential avenue for treatment other than steroids. Original research article here (paywalled)
Plastic waste on coral reefs not only poses a pollution hazard to animals living there, but in damaging the coral and leading to bacterial infections. Original research article here. (Science paywall I’m afraid).
Not so much news, but a thoughtful retrospective on a paper published 50 years ago that first predicted the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet.
Astrophysicists have now detected planets that are not only not in our solar system, but not in our galaxy, which is quite astonishing.
And finally…you know how thanks to great special effects, all science fiction films seem to have some sort of sequence with what looks like a “hologram” projected in the air? Well, inspired by one of the original efforts, Princess Leia’s distress call in Star Wars, researchers have managed to do just that. It’s a photophoretic-trap volumetric display, and it’s way beyond my understanding (deservedly published in Nature), and very cool.
Excellent video below (also in the news article I linked to):
Featured image: Jedimentat44/flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0