Shots of Science: LHC, Spacetalk & More

LHC back on track celebrations at CERN. Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN

Ups and downs at the LHC

Don’t they look happy! It’s been an exciting few weeks over at CERN. After a scheduled 2 year downtime, the Large Hadron Collider was due to restart last week, but the momentous occasion was delayed by a short circuit. Trying to find the rogue piece of metallic debris causing the short circuit was no small feat, and the engineers expected that the delay could take several weeks. However, the small piece of metal was located – it has found its way into a vertical tube connected to the diode box. Extracting the offending imposter proved to be surprisingly simple: blasting it with electricity like a phaser set to ‘kill’. Everything was set back on track for the restart to happen and they even live blogged their first day back in business on April 5th! Now the human race can get back to wildly speculating about its domesday effects with no regard for the science – Quick, duck for cover!

Worms count all the animals in the sea

It turns out that worms are good for something more than just turning your garden into a vegetable growing paradise. They can count animals, too.

The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) has released its latest update, providing a census of more than 220,000 known marine species. Among the 1451 animals added in 2014 is a mite named after Jennifer Lopez. Litarachna lopezae is a marine mite found in a coral reef system off Puerto Rico, but despite its famous name it really is still just Litarachna, Litarachna from the block.

Beetles never die

J.Lo’s music may eventually fade, even the Beatles will one day be unheard of, but beetles, beetles never die. This is according to a new fossil records study which has found that of the 214 known families of beetles worldwide, only 35 families have died out. Most significantly, the report says, is that “polyphagan beetles had a family-level extinction rate of zero for most of their evolutionary history” which may account for their great diversity today. So before you go stepping on that little beetle, just have a think about how long its family might have been around.

Leave nothing but footprints

NASA image of Mars Rover on surface of Mars
Mars Rover Image:NASA

This may not have ever occurred to you, but when a human-made machine lands on Mars, it leaves scorch marks on the surface. Ingrid Daubar and her team from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been looking at images of the landing sites of Curiosity and Phoenix on the surface of Mars to see how long it takes for those scorch marks to disappear over time. What they found is that the blast zones fade back to the background surface colour – called albedo, or surface reflectivity – within a few short earth years. Dust on the Martian surface plays a role in covering up the scorch marks – however, the complications of dust movement means that sometimes the scorch marks reappear.

Cancer survival rates on the rise

Of course, no one wants to get cancer, but the good (and unsurprising) news is that being diagnosed with cancer in 2015 brings a much higher rate of survival than being diagnosed in 1971. A new observational study, funded by Cancer Research UK, looked at all cancers across England and Wales, finding that the net survival is now 50% at 5 years, up from 50% at 1 year after diagnosis in 1971. It’s not all good news, however. The survival rates for people with cancers of the brain, stomach, lung, oesophagus, and pancreas have not seen much in the way of improvements in survival.

Sunset on the ISS

The Colours of Orbit Photograph taken by the Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti
The Colours of Orbit Image: ESA/NASA

And finally, on a happy note, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has taken some marvellous photos while up on the International Space Station. Called “The colours of orbit”, the ESA photos show the ISS in the orange glow of sunset – which occurs just 45 minutes before the sun rises again.

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