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Core Concept

Bacteriophages: The Enemies of Bad Bacteria Are Our Friends!

Some bacteria can enter the human body and make people ill. Usually, these diseases can be cured by antibiotics, but sometimes bacteria are resistant to them. In these cases, bacteria become very dangerous. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria but are harmless to humans. To reproduce, they get into a bacterium, where they multiply and finally, they break the bacterial cell to release the new viruses. Therefore, bacteriophages kill bacteria. Here, we explain how bacteriophages can be used to treat infectious diseases or to remove bacteria from other places where they are undesirable.

Authors

Diana Gutiérrez / Lucía Fernández / Beatriz Martínez / Ana Rodríguez / Pilar García
Reviewed by Anjishnu
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New Discovery

Itsy Bitsy Spider? It Depends…

You have probably heard it before, “the bug was huge!” (said your friend who is afraid of bugs), or “the needle was so big!” (said another friend who is afraid of shots). Can such statements be more than just a figure of speech? We asked if fear could change the way we estimate size. To answer that question, we asked people who were afraid of spiders, and people who were not, to estimate the size of pictures of spiders and other animals. We also asked how unpleasant each picture was to look at. People who were afraid of spiders estimated spider size to be larger compared to people who were not afraid of spiders. This result shows that things like our emotions can affect the way we evaluate the size of things around us. In other words, each of us experiences the world in his own special way.

Authors

Tali Leibovich / Noga Cohen / Avishai Henik
Reviewed by Ben and Nate
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New Discovery

How Can I Make My Younger Sibling Stop Crying?

When a baby won’t stop crying, it can be frustrating. One well known trick parents use is holding the child and walking around for a while, however we are just now finding out how and why it works. Researchers find that this process occurs in different parts of the brain: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the cerebellum. The PNS, which is part of the autonomic nervous system, is the brain relaxation command center. When babies are carried, the PNS relaxes their bodies (i.e dropping the heart rate), which gradually calm them down and stop their cry. Also, carrying triggers the cerebellum, which controls movement coordination, making the baby physically adjust to their mother. Understanding how the brain works will teach us how to better soothe babies. In turn, parents will be more relaxed and this will better health, happiness, and parent-child relationships.

Authors

Gianluca Esposito / Keegan B. Coppola / Anna Truzzi
Reviewed by Andrew
Reviewed by David
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New Discovery

How Does a Fruit Fly Say “Ouch”?

Fruit Fly is an ideal model animal for biological research. Just like the human skin, the fruit fly has an outer layer to itself protect from injury or damage. If the human and the fruit fly respond to injury in similar ways, then we can use fruit fly to discover new steps to improve human health. Fruit flies can grow quickly and in the lab we can study many fruit flies at the same time. Using small needles to wound the fruit flies, we are able to injure and ask questions about repair. In a basic experimental method we test how our Action can cause a Reaction. Fruit flies are small and we use microscopes to see a wound reaction--Ouch! The goal of this research is to test changes in the fruit fly DNA and understand the chain of events in wound repair.

Authors

Michelle T. Juarez
Reviewed by The Metropolitan School of Panama
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Core Concept

Does the Brain Read Chinese or Spanish the Same Way It Reads English?

There are at least 6,000 languages spoken in the world today (Comrie, 2009). The world’s languages are represented by a variety of writing systems called “orthographies”. All orthographies code spoken language using a system of symbols. However, orthographies differ in the size of the sound unit that is mapped onto each symbol. For example, in alphabetic orthographies, like English, Spanish, and Russian, each symbol maps onto an individual sound called a phoneme (e.g., the /b/ sound in “book). In non-alphabetic orthographies, like Chinese or Cherokee, the symbol maps onto a larger sound unit such as a syllable (e.g., like “pro” in the word “project”). Over 400 orthographies exist today. Here we will first learn about the characteristics of different orthographies. Then we will use this information to help understand how the characteristics of different writing systems affect reading. We will then learn about the brain regions involved in reading.

Authors

Nicole J. Conrad
Reviewed by Village Charter School
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New Discovery

Seeing the Shadow of Rings around a “Super Saturn”

Astronomers believe that they have seen the shadows of a giant ring system around an unseen planet move in front of their parent star. The fluctuations in the light coming from the star was found in data from May 2007, but not analysed until 2012. Unlike transiting planets that cause the star to dim by a few percent over a few hours, this star dimmed by an incredible 95% over the course of two months. The best explanation is that there is a planet, with rings about 200 times larger than the rings around Saturn, that moved in front of its star, causing the flickering that we saw. This unexpected discovery is leading us to look for more giant ring systems in older data, both online in astronomy digital archives and in older photographic plates.

Authors

Matthew Kenworthy
Reviewed by Jonah
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Core Concept

Be Aware of Ticks When Strolling through the Park

Ticks are blood-feeding arthropods distributed worldwide. They feed on different animal hosts, including humans. Tick bites are unnoticed by the host since tick saliva contains molecules that prevent inflammation and pain. This camouflage allows ticks to feed for several days without alarming the host. A major problem is that ticks transmit pathogens while blood-feeding. This report provides basic information on tick evolution, anatomy, life cycle, transmitted diseases and how to prevent tick bites.

Authors

Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz / Agustín Estrada-Peña / James J. Valdés / José de la Fuente
Reviewed by Jack
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Core Concept

Autoimmunity: Why the Body Attacks Itself

The human body is made up of 37 trillion cells and billions of these die every single day. The body has special immune cells, called macrophages, which consume dying cells to prevent them from building up in your body. Macrophages are able to also eat any cell that is infected by a bacterium or virus. This ensures that your body will remain as healthy as possible. Sometimes the macrophages are given the wrong signals and they attack healthy cells. When this happens your body develops an allergic reaction or inflammation which can lead to autoimmunity.

Authors

Ryan R. Davis / Thomas Hollis
Reviewed by Holyrood Secondary School
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Core Concept

Why Doesn’t Your Brain Heal Like Your Skin?

Skin wounds may be painful, but they usually heal perfectly. Worst case scenario, you may be left with a scar. In contrast, when the brain gets injured, we are often left with disabilities that stay with us for the rest of our lives. What is so different about the brain and how does it repair itself? Brain cells face unique challenges when they get injured, for example by a concussion or a stroke. And to cope with these challenges, the brain developed an ingenious strategy to deal with injury.

Authors

Nina Weishaupt / Angela Zhang
Reviewed by Trafalgar School for Girls
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New Discovery

Training Your Emotional Brain: From Science Fiction to Neuroscience

Our neuroscience research project begins with a science fiction story: in the future, androids (robots made of flesh and bones) became virtually identical to humans, except that they lacked deep emotions, such as empathy. What if we could find out a way to read empathic feelings just by measuring brain activity in real life? And, even more, what if a person could boost their empathic feelings (e.g. love, tenderness or affection) using information from their own brain activity? This was our goal. We asked 24 volunteers to enter in an MRI scanner that measures brain activity. Inside the machine, they should think about significant others while looking at their own brain activity on a monitor – a process called “neurofeedback”. Volunteers receiving neurofeedback were able to increase their brain activity associated with empathy. This evidence opens the possibility that people can change their brain’s emotional states and boost empathy.

Authors

Patricia Bado / Maria Stewart / Jorge Moll
Reviewed by St. Andrew’s College
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