Reader’s Scigest 05-11-15

By Jennifer Hack and Bruno Martin

Food for thought

6896388410_3e3dbc2ceb_oA study from Columbia University has revealed that following a Mediterranean diet could slow down ageing. A cohort of 694 multi-ethnic elderly people, with an average age of 80.1 years, was divided into two groups: those that adhered to a Mediterranean diet and those that did not. In the ageing process, the brain tends to shrink and this has been associated with loss of cognitive ability and development of Alzheimer’s. Using MRI scanning, the researchers found that the total brain volume of those following a Mediterranean diet was up to 13.11 ml larger than those who did not. This corresponds to a difference of five years of ageing. A Mediterranean diet consists of lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. The diet also involves eating a large amount of fish, but only minimal amounts of meat and dairy, and allows for a small, regular intake of alcohol. However, the head researcher, Yian Gu, warned that the study does not track the effects of the diet over a prolonged period of time; the results correspond to one data set. Nonetheless, their work strengthens the case for following a Mediterranean diet, especially given the strong link with improved brain health later in life.

Beam me up!

Engineers from Bristol and Sussex have developed a sonic ‘tractor beam’, not unlike the ones in science fiction, that can grab and lift objects without touching them. The device works with an array of 64 miniature loudspeakers that emit high-pitch and high-intensity sound waves, surrounding the object in an acoustic force field. So far it has been tested successfully to keep pea-sized objects airborne and move them in real time with no contact; the object is kept in a ‘quiet’ region of space that moves as the hologram of sound waves around it is altered. The team note that this technique could have wide-ranging applications, from sonic production lines that transport and assemble delicate objects to precise control of drug capsules or microsurgical instruments through living tissue.

Photograph: US Department of Agriculture

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