Reader’s Scigest 28-05-13

Solar ImpulseBy Jonny Bowers

Plane old solar power

Two Swiss pilots have set a new record for the longest distance travelled by a solar powered plane. The flight of almost a thousand miles lasted a lengthy eighteen hours was the second leg of the pair’s “Across America” bid, which is billed as the first cross continental solar powered flight. The prototype aircraft has already broken records for solar powered flying, being the first such craft to complete an international flight in 2010, but the Swiss duo are rumoured to be planning future flights across oceans and eventually circumnavigating the world. In addition to their flying breaking records pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard aim for it to encourage businesses to move towards more sustainable energy technologies.

Gene-ius solution

By mapping the genes of sixteen white tigers in Chimelong Safari Park, Chinese scientists have been able to show what makes them, well, white. White tigers were eradicated from the wild in India almost 60 years ago, but little was known about what made them different from their more traditionally coloured counterparts. The answer, says the research, is a single gene called SLC45A2 that is found other in animals as far afield as humans and European chickens. The researchers now hope to focus on why it is that tigers survived in two discrete coloured groups over the same area and what forced this evolutionarily; especially as much of their prey, such as deer, are colour-blind.

You’ll be itching to read this

What is an itch? According to scientists the feeling of itchiness is not a form of pain, nor is it the same as the being tickled; Itchiness is caused by a completely separate neurotransmitter called natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb). By disabling this neurotransmitter in the spinal cord the study, published in the journal Science, was able to remove the desire and perception of itchiness. Chronic itching is a potentially debilitating condition that can lead to a low quality of life and irreparable damage to the skin. The researchers hope that a treatment could be developed using this new knowledge.

Photograph: Stephanie Booth

One thought on “Reader’s Scigest 28-05-13

  • A brief correction on the solar story: the first solar-powered airplane flight across the USA was done by an American, Eric Raymond, in a craft named “Sunseeker”, twenty-three years ago.


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