SciTech Briefs

Hookah smoke has carcinogens and carbon monoxide

Despite the common misconception that smoking hookah is safe, researchers analyzing regular hookah smokers have identified that using a hookah three times a day exposes one to more carbon monoxide and the carcinogen benzene than smoking a half-pack of cigarettes. The study asked 13 healthy volunteers who smoked both cigarettes and hookah to only smoke hookah for four days. After a week, the volunteers were asked to smoke only cigarettes for a week. On average, the volunteers smoked hookah three times a day and had eleven cigarettes per day.

The researchers took urine samples and determined that the amount of benzene, which is linked to leukemia and lung cancer, was higher when the users smoked hookah instead of cigarettes. Breath tests also indicated that volunteers smoking only hookah had 2.5 times the amount of carbon monoxide in their breath than when only smoking cigarettes.

Source: ScienceNews

Studies show monkeys conform to social norms

Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland recently noticed a pattern of fickleness in male monkeys when they emulate the behavior of other monkeys. The researchers observed the behavior of wild vervet monkeys in South Africa and found that adult males migrating into the group quickly caught on to the social norms of the group.

They tested social conformity by giving some groups of monkeys blue and pink corn. In some groups, the blue corn was meant to taste repulsive; in others, the pink corn was. After some time, monkeys in each group only ate the colored corn that was initially considered “good” even when researchers presented both colors that tasted the same. When male monkeys moved to a group that ate a different color, however, the researchers noticed that the males would eat the same colored corn as its new group despite its previous experiences with that color.

Source: Science Daily

Large HIV vaccine trial study halted after poor results

Scientists are currently halting the largest study of an HIV vaccine, stating that there is no way the study would show that the vaccine can prevent HIV. The $77 million study, which involved over 2,500 subjects, met its goal for participants a few months ago. The study had shown that 41 percent of those who received the vaccine contracted HIV, compared to 30 percent that received placebo shots. While these statistics do not prove the vaccine actually increased the risk of contracting HIV, researchers also determined the vaccine failed to help. The participants will no longer receive any shots, although they will continue to be monitored for the next five years, in hopes that the study will still glean helpful information regarding a vaccine for HIV.

This study, which used a weakened cold virus called ade5 to transport HIV genes for the vaccine, may halt other HIV research using similar biological methods.

Source: NPR

Einstein’s theory of relativity passes toughest test yet

Einstein’s theory of relativity, which is in opposition to the quantum theory of physics, recently passed its toughest test yet. Scientists have been tracking a celestial system containing a neutron star two times the mass of the sun and a white dwarf star. They orbit each other every hour and a half. Astronomers’ observations of the system have remained consistent with the theory of relativity.

The astronomers believed that the system, which exhibited extreme characteristics, would not emit gravitational radiation predicted by Einstein’s theory. However, the scientists were able to observe the gravitational radiation by measuring the time of arrival of radio waves sent from the neutron star over a long period of time.

Source: NewScientist

Scientists discover incredibly small fairyfly insect

Two scientists have recently discovered a minuscule wasp that is only two times longer than the width of a human hair. The wasp, named Tinkerbella nana after the Peter Pan character, is a fairyfly, a type of wasp found across the world that is typically parasitic. The paper written by the two scientists theorize just how small an insect can get. The authors state that a winged insect cannot get smaller than 150 microns in order to fly, which is only 100 microns smaller than Tinkerbella.

Despite its incredibly small size, there have been two insects already discovered smaller than Tinkerbella.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Federal authorities plan to no longer protect gray wolves

Federal authorities from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to drop the gray wolf from the endangered list in the lower 48 states, after 18 years of protection. The species, which had been hunted almost to extinction in the West and has since rebounded, is now a nuisance for many ranchers and farmers in the western United States. Some have continually lobbied to remove the wolves from the endangered list.

The protection of the gray wolves will now be left to the individual states. California, in particular, is considering imposing its own protections. Although the federal authorities believe that de-listing the wolves is a success, many conservationists and scientists are skeptical and frustrated about the decision.

Source: Los Angeles Times