Science | In small doses

A few milligrams of all the scientific news of the week



Eric-Pierre Champagne

Eric-Pierre Champagne
Press

Smaller babies near drilling sites

PHOTO ELI HARTMAN, ARCHIVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

Some 17.6 million Americans live within a mile of a drilling site.

Women who live near an oil or gas drilling site are more likely to deliver a smaller baby, found a team from Oregon State University, which analyzed data from 2.6 million women who gave birth between 1996 and 2009 in Texas. They all lived within 10 km of a drilling site. The researchers found that women who lived 3 km or less away gave birth to slightly smaller babies, 7 to 9 g less than those born before drilling activities began. Although the difference in weight is not that great, the authors of the study published in Environmental Health Perspective report that 17.6 million Americans live within a mile of a drilling site. According to them, public policies should take better account of these data when the time comes to authorize drilling.

Quiz

Why don’t the giant Galapagos tortoises have cancer?

PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAX

A giant Galapagos tortoise

Galapagos giant tortoises can live up to 150 years and one of the reasons for their longevity is that they are at very low risk of developing cancer. American researchers have discovered that these turtles have cells that destroy themselves as soon as they are damaged, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells. These animals, like elephants in particular, also have extra copies of their genes responsible for the stress response that damages cells. This self-destruct mechanism in Galapagos tortoises also slows down the aging process.

Cameras to help the blind

PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, PRESS ARCHIVES

A school crossing in Longueuil, where you can see a sign indicating a crossing for blind pedestrians.

A body camera connected to vibrating bracelets, such as a smart watch, would significantly help blind people in their travels. American researchers tested such a system with a group of 31 blind or visually impaired people. The camera was connected to software capable of detecting obstacles. In such a case, an alert was sent to the left or right wristband, to indicate to the wearer on which side the obstacle was located. Analysis of 368 hours of video showed that this technology had reduced “collisions” by 37%. The results of this study were published in the scientific journal Jama Ophtalmology.

The brains of trout get bigger or smaller depending on the circumstances

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

A rainbow trout

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that trout had the ability to change the size of their brains depending on the environment they were in. In a first study, they found that rainbow trout who had managed to escape from a fish farm to live freely in a lake had seen their brain size increase by 15% in seven months. In another study, these same scientists studied lake trout in two Ontario lakes for six seasons to find that they saw their brain size increase in the fall and winter and decrease in the spring and summer. summer. During the summer, these fish avoid warmer surface waters, where the environment, however, is more complex and requires greater cognitive abilities. This ability to change the size of the brain is basically a matter of survival, since this organ is the one that requires the most energy to function. These trout have somehow the intelligence to use it for their livelihood.

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The number

160

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF COMAHUE

The eggs, measuring 5 to 7 centimeters, are said to be 85 million years old.

This is the number of fossilized eggs of prehistoric birds discovered in Patagonia by Argentinian paleontologists. The eggs, measuring 5 to 7 cm, are said to be 85 million years old. The discovery was made during renovations at the National University of Comahue, 1,100 km south of Buenos Aires. These eggs are those of birds called enantiorniths, which were very common in the Cretaceous period, a period that spanned approximately 145 to 66 million years BCE. A team has been working on the site for weeks, in parallel with the redevelopment of the establishment. Luckily, the eggs were discovered just a few dozen meters from the university’s Natural Science Museum.

With AFP