Nerd News: Mice Survive Alzheimer’s, 2013 Nobel Awards and More

It’s the second week of the government Shutdown (yes, capital “S”). The debt ceiling crisis is causing mayhem. Naturally, politics have been dominating the news. Therefore, not only are scientific endeavors being completely shutdown due to lack of federal funds, but the media’s attention has been narrowed to the political arena.

I managed to dig up a few great science-related stories from this week. I hope they take your mind off the mess Congress can’t manage to clean up.

1. Scientists have found planets just floating out in space before, but they have always been older ones, drifting away from stars. Recently, however, scientists found a young planet far from any host stars, which raises interesting questions about how it was formed.

2. One of my favorite people ever, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, saw Gravity. While he said up front that he thoroughly enjoyed it, he let loose a slew of tweets criticizing Hollywood for what it got wrong about space. Then, after the public got involved and blew the situation up, he reemphasized that he enjoyed the movie and drafted a particularly heartfelt Facebook note to point out what the movie got right. Scientifically correct or not, the movie looks intense, and I can’t wait to see it!

3. The 2013 Nobel Awards took place this week! These prestigious international accolades celebrate scientists* who have significantly contributed to their fields. This year’s physics winners are Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, who independently proposed the existence of the Higgs boson particle in 1964. The particle’s existence was confirmed at CERN earlier this year.

4. Scientists finally have proof that a comet has hit Earth before. It hit Egypt 28 million years ago, leaving shards of diamonds and silica glass behind as evidence. Scientists just identified a piece of the comet’s nucleus. Note: comets are different from meteorites. Small, leftover pieces of the formation of universe became comets. The infographic linked above explains the rest.

5. Alzheimer’s is a terrible, awful disease. I can’t imagine slowly losing a lifetime of memories or the emotional and psychological damage that follows. Scientists have been working on prolonging and eventually eradicating neurodegenerative diseases for a long time, and recent studies suggest they’ve turned a corner. Oral treatments were given to mice showing signs of a similar disease and completely halted the degenerative processes. Now scientists just need to figure out how to modify this this pill to have similar, if not better, effects on humans.

I promised myself I’d get this post out on time this week. As I’m kicking off my weekend by heading to Oktoberfest right after work, that meant finishing this post at 2 a.m. I hope it all makes sense and you enjoyed it!

*With the exceptions of the Nobel Peace Prize, economic, literature, etc. awards, of course.

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