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Does my science look big in this? This week in science

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This picture depicts the long-range spin-spin interaction (blue wavy lines) in which the spin-sensitive detector on Earth’s surface interacts with geoelectrons (red dots) deep in Earth’s mantle. The arrows on the geoelectrons indicate their spin orientations, opposite that of Earth’s magnetic field lines (white arcs). (Credit: Illustration: Marc Airhart (University of Texas at Austin) and Steve Jacobsen (Northwestern University).)

Being responsible for picking the week’s most interesting science stories is a fun and fascinating challenge. It pushes to me to look beyond my own interests and explore what others find compelling. So I trust you find my ‘science making news’ selection of interest and delight; explore the quantum, human, off-world and mathematical highs of the week.

On the human scale an international team of scientists has been investigating the antibiotic properties of sweat. More precisely they discovered how a natural antibiotic called dermcidin, produced by our skin when we sweat, is a highly efficient tool to fight tuberculosis germs and other dangerous bugs.

Their results could contribute to the development of new antibiotics that control multi-resistant bacteria.

The benefits of a good nights sleep once again are news. Researchers have shown that the disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm can lead not only to obesity, but can also increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Our study confirms that it is not only what you eat and how much you eat that is important for a healthy lifestyle, but when you eat is also very important.

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At the quantum scale, the particle physicists are at it again. Not content with discovering the Higgs Boson they are shedding light (pardon the pun) on a possible 5th force in nature. In a breakthrough physicists have established new limits on what scientists call “long-range spin-spin interactions” between atomic particles. These interactions have been proposed by theoretical physicists but have not yet been seen. If a long-range spin-spin force is found, it not only would revolutionize particle physics but might eventually provide geophysicists with a new tool that would allow them to directly study the spin-polarized electrons within Earth.

The most rewarding and surprising thing about this project was realizing that particle physics could actually be used to study the deep Earth.

The latest news from Mars is that curiosity has relayed new images that confirm it has successfully obtained the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet.

Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown.

To wrap up with one further piece of geek excitement. On January 25th at 23:30:26 UTC, the largest known prime number, 257,885,161-1, was discovered on Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) volunteer Curtis Cooper’s computer. The new prime number, 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, less one, has 17,425,170 digits. With 360,000 CPUs peaking at 150 trillion calculations per second, 17th-year GIMPS is the longest continuously-running global “grassroots supercomputing”project in Internet history.

Until next week’s Australian Science review, go geekily crazy and enjoy your weekend.

This article was first published on Australian Science, you can read it here.

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