Diabetes in pregnancy, X-ray body scanners, the language gene, and those slippery neutrinos

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about diabetes in pregnancy, X-ray body scanners, the language gene, those slippery neutrinos, and more…

Diabetes during pregnancy: the effects don’t stop at birth—New research in Sydney shows that the children of mothers who develop diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of obesity and diabetes themselves. But the good news is that the better blood sugar levels are kept under control during pregnancy, the better the outcomes for the resulting children.—Australasian Science

An Australasian Science story on this topic can be found in the December, 2011 issu

Spotting cancer before it startsInnovative microscope techniques are probing the structure of the chromosomes in the heart of the cell. They could potentially alert us to changes that provide an early warning system for degenerative conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.—Cancer Research/New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228392.800-spot-cancer-before-it-starts-with-nanoscale-microscopy.html

The Pill linked to prostate cancer—Canadian researchers have found a significant correlation between the use of oral contraceptives and prostate cancer in 88 countries around the world. No-one has yet shown a cause and effect connection, but the search is on.—British Medical Journal

A New Scientist blog on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/11/contraceptive-pill-linked-to-p.html

Europe bans X-ray body scanners used at US airportsThe EU has prohibited the use of US-style X-ray body scanners at European airports on health and safety grounds. European countries will be able to use an alternative body scanner based around radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer.—Nature

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/europe-bans-x-ray-body-scanners-used-at-us-airports-1.9391

Neutrinos still faster than light, new results show—One of the most staggering recent results in physics—evidence that neutrinos travel faster than light—hasn’t gone away after a couple more weeks of observations. The researchers involved are now confident enough in their findings that they are submitting them to a peer-reviewed journal.—New Scientist/Nature/ Science

Stories on this topic can be found at:




Russia gets the red planet blues—It was the largest planetary mission in history of, bearing Russia’s hopes of getting back into space exploration. But instead of rocketing off to return soil from Mars, Phobos-Grunt is stuck in Earth orbit, probably destined to fall out of the sky by year’s end.—Nature

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/russia-gets-the-red-planet-blues-1.9361

Astral ménages a trios are unsustainableNew Dutch simulations show that single stars that try to come between a tight stellar pair are kicked out into space at breakneck speeds. The work could explain the origin of the “runaway” stars that have puzzled astronomers for the past 50 years.—Science

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21187-third-wheel-stars-get-cast-out-at-high-speeds.html

Earth’s time capsules may be flawed—Zircons are some of the oldest bits of mineral on Earth. Some zircon inclusions in rock were formed within 150 million years of the planet’s birth. But a new Australian study suggests that they are not so pristine as first thought, raising doubts about the conclusions researchers have drawn from them.—Geology

A Science story on this topic can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/11/earths-time-capsules-may-be-flaw-1.html?ref=hp

‘Language gene’ speeds learning—A mutation that appeared more than half a million years ago may have helped humans acquire the complex muscle movements that are critical to speech and language. German researchers have genetically engineered mice carrying the human form of the gene, known as FOXP2, and found that they learned more quickly than their normal counterparts.—Nature

A Nature story on this topic can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/language-gene-speeds-learning-1.9395

UK launches engineering equivalent of the Nobel Prize—A £1 million (A$1.58 million) prize to be run by the Royal Academy of Engineering will be open to engineers the world over. Known as the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, it will be awarded every two years from 2013. The aim is to spur innovation and reward the successful application of science in solving the world’s over-arching problems.—New Scientist

A New Scientist blog on this topic can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/11/technology-nobel-prize-on-the.html