Science Briefs

Shanghai students are the best at math and science

Over half a million students participated in the International Student Assessment in over 70 countries around the world and Chinese school children placed overall best, according to the Telegraph.

Five thousand 15-year-old students from Shanghai took the two-hour exam and blew the experts away. Over a quarter of Shanghai’s students posses advanced mathematical thinking skills compared to the average of three per cent.

Alcoholism linked to obesity

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO discovered a link between people who are at risk for alcoholism and their likelihood to develop obesity, reports

An association between family history of alcoholism and obesity has become more apparent to researchers. People with such family history are more likely to be obese now than 10 years ago.

Richard A. Grucza told ScienceDaily, “In addiction research, we often look at what we call cross-heritability, which addresses the question of whether the predisposition to one condition also might contribute to other conditions. For example, alcoholism and drug abuse are cross-heritable. This new study demonstrates a cross-heritability between alcoholism and obesity.”

Grucza says that in particular women with a family history of alcoholism have an elevated obesity risk. This speculation stems from the changes in food we eat that now can interact with areas of the brain that addictive drugs do.

“Much of what we eat nowadays contains more calories than the food we ate in the 1970s and 1980s, but it also contains the sorts of calories — particularly a combination of sugar, salt and fat — that appeal to what are commonly called the reward centres in the brain,” says Grucza.

His team analyzed data from two alcoholism surveys that took place over the last two decades.

Neanderthals ate their greens too

Up until most recently it was believed that the Neanderthal man ate only meat and little to no vegetables.

However, researchers in the U.S. have found grains of cooked plant material in the teeth of fossilized specimens, according to BBC. This is the first study to prove that their diet was more sophisticated than believed as the plant matter was cooked.

Previous analysis of bone samples showed very high levels of protein, which lead scientists to believe that Neanderthals had a diet consisting primarily of meat. This theory, combined with the fact that this species became extinct as large mammals such as mammoths declined, makes sense.

Nintendo issues warning for new system

Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld gaming system isn’t out yet and the manufacturer is already issuing warnings, reports BBC.

Nintendo’s 3DS, the latest version of the popular Nintendo DS, will now be able to display 3D images with out the need for 3D glasses.

Nintendo’s website has issued a warning to the parents, stating that the upcoming handheld may cause damage eyesight of children under the age of six if played for extended periods of time.

Both Sony and Toshiba, makers of 3D gaming systems and televisions, have also issued warnings for watching 3D imagery, warning that adults may also experience discomfort if watching something in 3D for long periods of time.

Polar bears not on endangered list

The U.S. Department of the Interior has decided to keep polar bears classified as a threatened species, giving the animals less protection by law than if they had decided to label them “endangered.”

According to the BBC, “Under the Endangered Species Act, the status of ‘endangered’ requires the government to assess the impact of greenhouse gases on the bears’ Arctic homelands.”

This regulation could ultimately impair plans if the American government was to consider any oil projects in Northern Alaska, where green house gas emissions would need to be weighed before the project commenced.

The Center for Biological Diversity says that polar bears face an 80 per cent chance of extinction within the next 40 years and they will continue to challenge the U.S. government.

Not just any 3D printer, this one prints food

A team at Cornell University’s Computational Synthesis Lab has designed a printer capable of printing 3D food.

The current design uses raw materials in syringes that are then inked layer by layer into a shape.

The machine is currently limited to foods that are liquid or can be pressed through a syringe.

Leader of the project, Jeffrey Ian Lipton, told the BBC , “FabApps would allow you to tweak your foods taste, texture and other properties. Maybe you really love biscuits, but want them extra flaky. You would change the slider and the recipe and the instructions would adjust accordingly.”