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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    This Week in Science Sept. 9

    Courtesy+of+Indi+Samarajiva+%2F+Creative+Commons

    Courtesy of Indi Samarajiva / Creative Commons

    Ecology

    A new study indicates a steady pattern for predators and prey. Although predators rely on prey for food, increasing prey doesn’t necessarily mean increasing the number of predators. The analysis for this study is in the journal Science, and uses data from over 1,000 previous animal studies in over 1,500 areas worldwide.

    Dr. Ian A. Hatton, a biologist from McGill University, first compared with his team herbivores and carnivores from varying ecosystems in Africa, such as the Kalahari and the Serengeti.

      Astonished, the team actually found a steady trend—the amount of predators did not increase as quickly as prey, and these population differences appeared predictable and formulaic.

    The team delved further into ecosystems in North America, Southeast Asia and other places around the world to examine forests, lakes, oceans, grasslands and even observe smaller organisms like algae and zooplankton.

    “Even little zooplankton that eat phytoplankton show the same structural pattern,” Hatton said in an interview with The New York Times.

    It turns out that crowded areas have less prey, since resources are limited. Also, predators usually focus on the old or the young, limiting the amount of food available. This steady pattern can help scientists more closely watch ecosystems and other endangered species. It is especially useful in finding out the amount of a particular species an area is supposed to have.

    Technology

    Scientists are developing a new treatment to help end motion sickness within five to 10 years. Research from Imperial College London published in the journal Neurology illustrates that having a small electrical current on an individual’s scalp can affect responses in the region of the brain that processes motion signals. 

    In this way, the brain is not as affected by the confusing inputs it receives. The technique is both safe and effective, and meant to be accessible for the general public sometime in the future.

    “You would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before traveling,” said Dr. Qadeer Arshad in an Imperial College press release. Volunteers of this study had electrodes on their heads for about 10 minutes and then sat on a motorized rotating chair that tilts to mimic similar motions that make people feel queasy on roller coasters and cruise ships. 

    The volunteers felt less nauseous and had recovered more quickly after the treatment.

    Professor Michael Gresty, who is also from Imperial College and collaborated on the study, stated in the same press release that the effective motion sickness treatments that currently exist are tablets that make people feel drowsy, which could be fine for short trips.

    However, for people who work on cruise ships, for example, it becomes difficult to cope with motion sickness while working. 

    Thus, he claims that with “no apparent side effects,” the new treatment has benefits that closely resemble the effects seen “with the best travel sickness medications available.” Additionally, the currents in this device are small enough that harmful effects from short term use are unlikely.

    Scientists have already begun talking to industrial partners about the device. The military specifically expressed interest in their work since the device could help people who manage drones using a visual interface that can cause nausea. Based on evidence from other studies, Arshad claims that the brain is stimulated in a manner that improves concentration and attention.

    Psychology

    Researchers from University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School and University of Nevada have found that the start times of schools and universities are hurting students’ health and learning.

    The authors of the study claim that start times should be 8:30 a.m. or after at 10 years old, 10 a.m. or after at 16 years old, and 11 a.m. or after at 18 years old. Having later start times prevents students from falling into chronic sleep deprivation, which can ultimately lead to health issues and bad learning habits.

    The finding stems from the circadian rhythm, or body clock, and the genes that help regulate this cycle every 25 hours. During adolescence, the difference between the average working day and inherent circadian rhythm becomes more prominent. It is the circadian rhythms that create the best hours for working and concentrating, but in adolescence, these hours become about three hours later.

    Thus, when the researchers were finding start times that allowed for optimal health and learning, these genetic changes that affect sleep patterns were taken into account.

    The U.S. Department of Health has already published an article to promote changing what time school begins for both high school and middle school students.

    Health

    Obese and overweight adults are often advised to exercise in order to improve their overall health. However, over 50 percent do not do so. 

    A new research study at University of Colorado, Boulder, indicates that taking vitamin C regularly can give cardiovascular benefits similar to daily exercise in these adults. This research will be discussed at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics.

    In these adults, blood vessels have greater activity of the small vessel-constricting protein endothelin (ET-1). This greater activity level means the vessels are more vulnerable to shrinking and cannot respond as efficiently to blood flow demand, which could lead to vascular diseases in the future.

    Exercise helps lower ET-1 activity; however, maintaining consistency in exercising is often difficult with a busy schedule.

    The study tested if vitamin C, which enhances vessel function, could also help reduce ET-1 activity. The research team determined that taking vitamin C regularly does indeed lower ET-1 activity about as much as walking would. 

    The scientists believe that vitamin C could be a beneficial supplement to lower ET-1 levels in these adults and could help their overall lifestyle since exercising daily may be difficult with a tight schedule.

    Biology

    Nose picking, as it turns out, is more common in monkeys than one may think. For the very first time, researchers claim seeing a wild capuchin monkey picking its teeth and nose using a tool.

    Michael Haslam from University of Oxford witnessed an adult, female bearded capuchin around northeastern Brazil continuously try for five minutes to place a twig into its nostril. 

    Haslam and his colleague, Tiago Falótico, reported in July in the journal Primates that the capuchin also tried rubbing sticks in a back and forth motion against its teeth, perhaps to remove any debris. They further observed that after using the tool for its teeth or nose, the monkey would lick the tip of the tool, possibly to clean it.

    These bearded capuchins are known to be resourceful, especially in opening nuts to find insects or even collecting honey. It was not until recently that they were seen using a tool for their noses or teeth.


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