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The Month in Science – August

Each month Impact will review the latest news and discoveries from the world of science.

Research Suggests Drinking a Glass of Pear Juice Before Heading to Crisis – 3rd August

Australia’s National Science Agency have recently released the results of a study on hangover cures. The researchers examined the effect of consuming pears, which have long been used as a home remedy for hangovers in Korea and East Asia. A scale of 14 symptoms were designed to measure any effect the pear juice had on participants. No significant effects were observed when the pear juice was consumed after drinking, but drinking pear juice before alcohol ‘significantly reduced’ hangover symptoms. The symptom most improved by drinking pear juice was ‘trouble concentrating’. The reason why pear juice has this effect is unclear but the results may help a few more beady eyed students get to those painful 9am lectures.

Spicy Food the Secret to Longer Life – 4th August

Had too many takeaways this week and feeling bad about it? Never fear. A huge research project studying 500,000 participants over 7 years found that those who ate spicy food three times a week lowered their risk of dying by 14% compared to those who ate no spicy food regularly. Most participants sourced their spice from fresh chilli which has previously been shown to lower the risk of death from diabetes, certain types of heart disease and cancer. The nutrients, vitamins and capsaicin contained in the chillies are also thought to fight obesity. While more research is needed before curries are recommended alongside our five-a-day, it could be used as an excuse in the meantime when cooking seems too much of a hassle.

Bug Killing Book Produces Safe Drinking Water – 16th August

The first trials of a newly designed ‘bug killing book’ were successful after one page of the book was found to filter 100 litres of murky water to produce clean, drinkable water. The book is twice as useful as it can both filter the water and contains printed information on water safety. The pages contain silver or copper nanoparticles which kill bacteria. The filtration was so effective that safe drinking water was produced from raw sewage. Small amounts of silver and copper were found in the filtered water but remained below safe levels. The inventors now hope to scale up the production of the books, which are currently handmade, so that they can begin to help the 663 million people currently living without clean drinking water.

Ashleigh Madison Data Released – 18th August

Back in July, Ashleigh Madison was threatened by hackers claiming to have obtained all of their user information including names, addresses and contact details. The group, known as “The Impact Team” (no connection) claimed to be targeting Ashleigh Maddison on moral grounds, expressing opposition to their intent of encouraging people to have extra marital affairs and voicing concerns that although users who wished and paid for their data to be deleted were in fact still enrolled on the site. The hackers then released 32 million people’s account details, shocking many spouses around the world and resulting in the first related divorces being reported just 3 days later. Moral standpoints aside, the ease at which hackers obtained the details has concerned security experts around the world. A £240,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the hacker’s identification.

Stephen Hawking Proposes Solution to Black Hole Conundrum – 27th August

Black holes have been a thorn in the side of physicists for many years and will continue to be so as they present many seemingly unsolvable problems. Hawking solved one of these problems when he proposed the existence of Hawking radiation back in the 1970s. He suggested that black holes emit radiation which causes them to evaporate over time. This created a new problem: when the black hole evaporates, the information about the things the black hole has swallowed will be lost. This violates the laws of quantum physics that state that everything (including matter) contains information pertaining to it’s make-up. Because the black hole crushes objects to infinitesimally small sizes, the information would be lost. Hawking believes he has solved this by proposing that the information never enters the black hole, but instead sits on the boundary (the Event Horizon) and is stored as a 2D hologram in a process called ‘super translation’. The matter itself carries on into the black hole. A paper outlining the details will be published shortly.

Badger Cull Extended – 28th August

Following two years of trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset, the controversial badger cull has been extended to Dorset.  Bovine TB, which the cull is intending to reduce, has led to 32,800 cattle being slaughtered last year at a cost of £100 million to the taxpayer. Members of the NFU (National Farmer’s Union) have supported the scheme, declaring that the cull is ‘the best chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease’. However, opposition is growing after ethical concerns were raised about the methods used for the cull and results from the trial areas have shown little effect on the disease. Both trials failed to reach their minimum quotas and no tests were carried out to determine what proportion of the exterminated badgers were infected with TB. The policy will be reviewed in January after further evidence has been gathered.

Has CERN Dismantled Half of Physics? – 28th August

Modern physics has been built on the Standard Model which describes the universe in terms of particle interactions. The model contains a group of matter particles (divided into quarks and leptons) and a group of interaction particles (bosons) which describe how matter interacts both on the nanoscale and at a visible level. In the model, every interaction can be described using 4 forces: the strong nuclear force that binds atoms together; the electromagnetic force which acts between charged particles; the weak nuclear force which allows particles to decay and completing the set of four, gravity. This view has held since the 70s when the Standard Model was first proposed. However, new readings from CERN show strong evidence that there are other forces we have yet to discover. The model works by stating that all forces interact with leptons (a type of matter particle) in the same way. However, this may not hold for newly discovered forces. This adds to evidence from the Ba Bar experiment that has contradicted the standard model since the 1990s. Further data is required but if proven, many of the books in George Green Library will have to be rewritten.

Joanne Blunt 

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Science editor for the University of Nottingham student magazine IMPACT

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