Science Round-Up: May Updates

Ian Barnett takes a look at this month’s Science news

Death of the dinosaurs blamed on undersized babies 

The downfall of the dinosaur has flummoxed scientists for years, but a new study claims that their tiny offspring were responsible for their extinction. Since dinosaurs were egg-layers, the size of their newly hatched babies was limited to about 10 kg, yet adults could grow up to 50 tonnes. This size increase would be like a human growing from a healthy sized baby to a 20 tonne adult – thankfully this is not an everyday occurrence! Since dinosaurs had so much growing to do whilst young, there was great competition for food with not only their own kind, but also similarly sized adults of smaller species. It is thought that this over-population of the same niche paved the way for the extinction of many dinosaur species.


Time paradox solved

Expert psychologists have solved the ‘holiday paradox’, explaining why time seems to fly on holiday, yet once back home, the holiday seems to have lasted forever. The creation of new memories determines how fast time passes; more memories give the impression that time has passed slower. Once we become set in a routine, few new memories are recorded and hence time seems to pass faster. Therefore, by this theory, doing something different more regularly should create new memories and slow down the passage of time.

          

Polar bears older that assumed

The polar bear is about 600,000 years old, according to new research – four times older than originally thought. Scientists believe that it adapted to the cold conditions of the Arctic, diverging from its ancestor the brown bear in a sustained cold period. Previous research, which estimated the polar bear’s age at 150,000 years old, was based solely on mitochondrial DNA, whereas these new findings are established in a much broader genetic survey.

 

Africa sitting on water goldmine 

A British team has mapped vast underground water supplies across the continent of Africa. They found that aquifers, containing 30 times the annual rainfall, are lying underground, ready to supply the continent with water. The rising population, which is predicted to double over the next 40 years, will have an ever increasing demand for water, in order to grow more food. It is hoped that with careful management, the 300 million people in Africa presently without safe drinking water could also be supplied with it in the future via these reserves.

 

Bottled water boosts exam grades

University students who take bottled water into the exam hall have been shown to perform up to 10% better than those who do not. Psychologists still remain undecided whether it is the benefits of hydration on the brain or the reassuring effect of having a bottle of water that produces these results. The results were observed in first year students at Westminster University, however second years showed no difference between those with and those without water. It is thought that perhaps younger students are more anxious before exams and therefore benefit more, for whatever reason, from the bottle of water.

 

Ian Barnett

Image 1 - Jakub Hałun

Image 2 - Alan Wilson

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