Best of Last Week – 15,000-year-old viruses, chimps attacking gorillas, too much coffee leads to increased dementia
It was a good week for the biological sciences as a team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in the U.S. confirmed via DNA analysis that a 93-year-old butterfly represented the first U.S. case of human-led insect extinction—the Xerces blue butterfly was last seen in the early 1940s. Also, another team of researchers from across the U.S. used 3D imagining techniques to study shark intestines and found they function like Nikola Tesla's one-way valve. And a team from Ohio State University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln discovered 15,000-year-old viruses in Tibetan glacier ice and developed a new, ultra-clean method for analyzing microbes and viruses in ice without contaminating them.
In technology news, a team of researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg found that the photovoltaic effect of ferroelectric crystals could be increased by a factor of 1,000 by using three materials arranged periodically in a lattice. Also, a team affiliated with several institutions in Europe discovered that swarms of tiny, dumb, vibrating robots could carry out sophisticated actions, such as carrying objects and squeezing through tunnels. And a combined team from the German Aerospace Center and Technische Universität München developed an autonomous system that could be used to assemble reconfigurable structures directly in space. Also, a group at the University of Zurich developed a new algorithm that allows drones to fly faster than human racing pilots.
In other news, a combined team of researchers from Osnabrück University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, witnessed, for the first time, lethal attacks by chimpanzees on gorillas. The attacks occurred at the Loango National Park in Gabon and involved the deaths of two infants. Also, a team at the University of Chicago found an existing drug that is able to inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus—the drug masitinib is currently used to treat tumors in dogs.
And finally, if you drink coffee on a regular basis, you may want to check out the results of a study conducted by a team at the University of South Australia who found that excess coffee consumption can lead to a decrease in brain volume and an increased risk of dementia.
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