Published scoops - Science & Nature

16

Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan

A new technique developed at King’s College London uses a fifteen minute MRI scan to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The scan is used to analyze the structure of grey matter in the brain, and tests have shown that it can identify individuals already diagnosed with autism with 90% accuracy. The research could change the way that autism is diagnosed – including screening children for the disorder at a young age.

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15

Why the World Is Running Out of Helium

It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons.

But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world's reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world's most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

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14

Bacteria From Beer Lasts 553 Days In Space

A small English fishing village has produced an out-of-this-world discovery.

Bacteria taken from cliffs at Beer on the South Coast have shown themselves to be hardy space travellers.

The bugs were put on the exterior of the space station to see how they would cope in the hostile conditions that exist above the Earth's atmosphere.

And when scientists inspected the microbes a year and a half later, they found many were still alive.

These survivors are now thriving in a laboratory at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes.

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11

Zombie Ants and Killer Fungus

The oldest evidence of a fungus that turns ants into zombies and makes them stagger to their death has been uncovered by scientists.

The gruesome hallmark of the fungus's handiwork was found on the leaves of plants that grew in Messel, near Darmstadt in Germany, 48m years ago.

The finding shows that parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control the creatures they infect in the distant past, even before the rise of the Himalayas.

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10

Inflaton, Mother of the Universe

The inflaton particle is credited with generating the universe and fuelling its inflation. It has yet to be discovered, but it is fast running out of hiding places, thanks to the theoretical framework known as supersymmetry (SUSY).

Enormous and mainly extinct, supersymmetric particles are the dinosaurs of particle physics. Each of these "sparticles" is the partner of a known particle, and they have already solved several cosmological problems, including smoothing the way for a long-sought grand unified theory of physics.

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8

The Moon Is Shrinking Like a Wrinkled Apple

The moon is a permanent feature in our skies, but is it as unchanging as it seems?

Scientists consider the Earth's only natural satellite to be a pristine environment, an "open book" where the history of the solar system is written. But according to new observations by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), there's more than just impact craters -- born from the violent early days of our developing star system -- written in the lunar landscape.

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