EINSTEIN WAS RIGHT… AGAIN.
Physicists at CERN have demonstrated that antimatter, like matter, experiences gravity by falling downwards. This conclusion, consistent with physics theories, was achieved through meticulous experiments led by Jeffrey Hangst in the ALPHA-g experiment, which isolated antihydrogen atoms and observed their behavior in a gravitational field. This experiment is crucial as any discrepancy between the gravitational behavior of matter and antimatter could provide insights into why the universe predominantly consists of matter, despite equal amounts of matter and antimatter expectedly created during the Big Bang. The experiment used a magnetic ‘can’ to contain antihydrogen atoms, and by carefully manipulating the magnetic fields and observing the escape and annihilation of antiatoms, it was concluded that antimatter behaves similarly to matter under gravity. Further experiments aim to refine these observations, seeking to increase precision and confirm the universally applicable nature of gravitational laws on antimatter. (Nature)
BLUE ORIGIN NOT AT FAULT.
The FAA has concluded its investigation into Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle’s failure from September 2022. The uncrewed mission experienced a problem 65 seconds post-launch, causing the reusable first-stage booster to crash back to Earth. The capsule successfully deployed its emergency escape system, avoiding damage to 36 research payloads and injuries. Blue Origin, with oversight from the FAA, NTSB, and NASA, identified the mishap’s cause as a “thermo-structural failure” of the nozzle on the BE-3PM engine. The FAA mandates Blue Origin to implement 21 corrective actions and receive license modification before resuming launches. The necessary organizational changes remain undisclosed due to proprietary and sensitive data. Meanwhile, CEO Bob Smith will be replaced by Dave Limp in December. During New Shepard’s grounding, competitor Virgin Galactic has completed four crewed missions with its space plane. (space.com)
RESEARCHERS ON AI.
A survey by Nature indicates that over 1,600 global researchers perceive Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools as increasingly crucial in scientific research, with over half considering these tools as ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ for their fields in the coming decade. Machine learning and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are aiding in data processing, computations, brainstorming, and research writing. However, concerns are raised about AI’s impact, emphasizing issues like pattern recognition reliance, data bias, fraud facilitation, and research irreproducibility. Researchers are split on AI’s capability in peer reviews and journal editing, with concerns about AI-induced misinformation and methodology mistakes. Some researchers criticize AI’s potential in causing damage due to unskilled usage leading to false discoveries. Despite apprehensions, the consensus is that AI is transformative and its beneficial incorporation is essential. The survey outlines the prevalent usage and increasing reliance on AI in shaping future scientific endeavors. (Nature)
DONE AND DUSTED.
FDA advisers have overwhelmingly voted against the efficacy of BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics’ treatment, NurOwn, for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), marking a significant setback for the company’s approval ambitions after two previous rejections. The FDA had consistently communicated concerns over the lack of evidence supporting NurOwn’s efficacy and had highlighted ambiguities in the manufacturing process. Despite encouragement for further studies and data, BrainStorm persisted with its approval application based on the same phase 3 trial, leading to a public hearing. While some ALS advocates and trial participants spoke in favor of the treatment, citing personal improvements, the advisory committee emphasized focusing on the substantial data and avoiding the propagation of false hope. The committee suggested conducting an additional study to further validate the subgroup data provided by the company. (Fierce Biotech)
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PEACE CORPS DISCRIMINATION SUIT.
The Peace Corps is facing a lawsuit for allegedly discriminating against applicants with mental health histories, reflecting broader challenges in attitudes towards mental health. Many applicants, like Lea Iodice, have had offers rescinded due to treatments for common disorders like anxiety, despite having no severe psychiatric history. The lawsuit, seeking class-action status, claims the Peace Corps violated the Rehabilitation Act and failed to consider reasonable accommodations or individual assessments based on current medical knowledge. The Peace Corps emphasizes individual medical assessments and argues that many conditions manageable in the U.S. may not be addressable in assigned areas. Meanwhile, applicants experience embarrassment and a sense of punishment for honesty about their mental health. Advocates urge reconsideration of screening policies, arguing that the organization is losing valuable contributors due to outdated views on mental health. Rates of mental health symptoms in young adults are significantly rising, highlighting the urgency of addressing these concerns. (New York Times)
ASTRONAUTS RETURN AFTER A YEAR IN SPACE.
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin have returned to Earth after a prolonged 371-day mission in space, landing in Kazakhstan. The extended mission was unintended; their original Soyuz capsule was damaged by space debris, losing its coolant while docked to the International Space Station, necessitating a replacement. The previous NASA record for a single spaceflight was held by Mark Vande Hei at approximately 355 days, and the world record, held by Russia, is 437 days. Rubio mentioned the psychological challenges of such a long mission, having missed significant family milestones, and noted he wouldn’t have agreed to a year in space initially. This mission marked the first spaceflight for Rubio and Petelin, while Prokopyev has completed two extended stints on the station. NASA currently has no plans for more yearlong missions. (Associated Press)
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has unveiled two new hardware products: an updated Quest 3 virtual reality headset and a new set of Meta-powered smart glasses created in collaboration with Ray-Ban. The Quest 3, lighter, slimmer, and with improved optics and graphics performance, focuses more on mixed reality, allowing users to see the real world around them via pass-through video. It will start shipping on October 10, with the base model priced at $500. The new smart glasses, which can record 1080p HD video and 12-megapixel still images, will be available from October 17, starting at $299. The glasses are equipped with an AI-powered chatbot assistant, highlighting Meta’s vision for integrating conversational interactions with machine intelligence in future products. The new products represent Meta’s continued investment in the development of the metaverse, emphasizing a melding of physical and digital experiences. (Wired)
HUNTER-GATHERERS WEREN’T SO PEACEFUL.
New research in northern Chile suggests that violence was a regular aspect of life among ancient hunter-gatherer communities. The study, published in PLOS ONE, analyzed 10,000-year-old skeletal remains from the region, focusing on signs of trauma, particularly skull fractures. Of the 288 adult individuals examined, spanning from 10,000 years ago to 1450 CE, the rates of violence were found to be relatively static over time, with a notable increase around 1000 BCE. The violence is believed to have occurred between local groups and might have been influenced by the absence of a centralized political system or competition for resources, especially as agriculture developed. The research provides insight into the long-term patterns of interpersonal violence and warfare in ancient societies, highlighting their consistent presence throughout millennia in the studied populations. (Futurity)
Researchers are studying ancient soil samples in Greenland to assess the risk of thawing permafrost releasing dangerous pathogens, or “zombie viruses,” due to the Arctic’s increasing temperatures. The Versatile Emerging infectious disease Observatory (VEO) is focusing on how the warming in northern latitudes might influence infectious diseases. Although the probability is low, scientists are concerned that pathogens like smallpox could resurface. Previous research has uncovered viruses in permafrost, and an anthrax outbreak in 2016 raised concerns about the link between thawing permafrost and the emergence of diseases. Strict precautions are taken during the research to avoid contamination and potential release of pathogens. The findings of this research could lead to the closure of certain areas in Greenland and halt archaeological excavations to prevent the spread of any unearthed pathogens. (Science)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.