Reader’s Scigest 19-11-15

By Tommy Pallett

On the red carpet

The most valuable set of science prizes – worth collectively $22 million – were awarded last week to thousands of scientists. The stand out for Britain was the $3 million prize awarded to UCL professor John Hardy, for his research on Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Hardy discovered the genetic mutation which gives rise to amyloid plaques, which are essentially the cause of Alzheimer’s. This enormous reward fund was launched in 2013, and is backed by entrepreneurs such as Russia’s Yuri Milner, who states that his motives were to promote fundamental science and to turn living scientists into household names: an Oscar-style ceremony was held on Sunday 8th November in California.

Climate consequences

Climate Consequence (JayMantri via Pexels)You’ve heard about no-return ‘tipping-points’ in climate science. Well this year, the MET office reports, we’ve actually reached one: the halfway line to the dreaded 2 degrees C rise in global temperature. This limit has become the central argument around which climate change agreements have been signed, because according to a paper released back in 1977 such a rise would be the highest average global temperature experienced by humans in at least the last 100,000 years. A paper released in the 90s indicates that even the 1 degree rise we have now got to could “elicit rapid, unpredictable […] responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage”.

Brain scanning

PET is Positron Emission Tomography, a scanning technique used to image the brain in high resolution. Like CT and MRI scanners the machines are huge, and importantly, require the patient to remain very still: the more the patient moves the worse the image quality. Now researchers in West Virginia, USA have developed a helmet style scanner they’ve named AMPET, which stands for Ambulatory Microdose PET and essentially means two things: firstly, the patient can be upright and move around within a limited space; and secondly, the procedure requires a far lower dose of radiation than with conventional scanners.

Photograph: JayMantri via Pexels

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