Best of Last Week – Seven photons acting like billions, how plants communicate and an anti-aging molecule

September 17, 2018 by Bob Yirka,
Artist's rendering of the core of the apparatus. Credit: Imperial College London

It was another good week for physics as a team at the University of Chicago found gravitational waves provided a dose of reality about extra dimensions—they did not offer evidence of gravity "leaking" into additional dimensions. And a team with members from Imperial College London, the University of Oxford and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology found that just seven photons could act like billions, which suggested that scientists might study quantum behavior more easily than thought. Also, an international team reported on their discovery of a 'tunable' novel quantum state of matter that is more tunable than theory suggests. And another international collaboration resulted in the discovery of optimal magnetic fields for suppressing instabilities in tokamaks, marking another step toward harnessing fusion reactions.

It was a good week for biology, too, as a team at the University of Wisconsin discovered that blazes of light could reveal how plants signal danger over long distances—by using calcium to provide an electrical and chemical signal of a threat. And a team at the University of San Diego School of Medicine announced that they had found that a single gene mutation may have helped humans become optimal long-distance runners—a mutation that occurred between2 and 3 million years ago. Also, a team of archaeologists at Stanford University found evidence that suggested beer production may have been the motivation to cultivate cereals—they found beer-brewing innovations in a cave in Israel that they believe predate the early appearance of cultivated cereals. And an international team developed a gene therapy able to remove a core component of Parkinson's disease, taking another step towards an effective treatment for the debilitating disease. Also, another international team found that superbugs jump frequently between humans and animals—their genetic study of showed the evolution of the bugs as humans first began domesticating animals.

And finally, if you are like most people and would like to live to a ripe old age, in relatively good health, you might be interested in research done at Georgia State University—they identified a molecule that has anti-aging effects on the vascular system—and it is produced when people severely restrict their diet.

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