This Week in STEM: April 19, 2019

This Week in STEM: April 19, 2019

Blog Contributed by Dr. Christopher Murphy, Chief Strategic Growth & Communications Officer for Concept Schools, @DrChrisMurphy

Firefighters had a secret weapon when Notre Dame caught fire: A robot named ‘Colossus’

Washington Post

With a wall of red-orange flames rapidly advancing, and Notre Dame’s vast chambers reaching ovenlike temperatures, the commander of the Paris Fire Brigade made a painful choice Monday evening.

He told his firefighters to retreat.

Losing a beloved medieval relic would be devastating, of course, but losing human lives in a hopeless effort to save the building would be even worse.

Jean-Claude Gallet, the commander, had a backup plan: Colossus, a 1,100-pound tank like robot with the ability to venture into danger zones where conditions would quickly kill a person.

NASA’s Twins Study reveals effects of space on Scott Kelly’s health

ScienceNews

For nearly a year, U.S. astronauts and identical twins Scott and Mark Kelly lived lives that were as separate as Earth and space — literally. While Mark enjoyed retirement in Tucson, his brother floated in microgravity aboard the International Space Station orbiting about 400 kilometers above the planet.

Ten science teams studied the twins’ physiology, memory abilities and genes before, during and after that year, looking for any deviations that might suggest Scott’s 340 days in space affected him physically. While researchers have dropped tantalizing hints about what NASA’s Twins Study found, now a comprehensive study published in the April 12 Science confirms that lengthy space travel triggers stressors that can manipulate genes, send the immune system into overdrive or impair mental reasoning abilities and memory. Whether these stressors have long-term health repercussions is still unclear.

Pig brains partially revived hours after death—what it means for people

National Geographic

Scientists have restored cellular function in 32 pig brains that had been dead for hours, opening up a new avenue in treating brain disease—and shaking our definition of brain death to its core. Announced on Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine devised a system roughly analogous to a dialysis machine, called BrainEx, that restores circulation and oxygen flow to a dead brain.

The brain constitutes only about 2 percent of the human body, yet it is responsible for all of the body’s functions. Learn about the parts of the human brain, as well as its unique defenses, like the blood brain barrier.

The researchers did not kill any animals for the purposes of the experiment; they acquired pig heads from a food processing plant near New Haven, Connecticut, after the pigs had already been killed for their meat. And technically, the pig brains remained dead—by design, the treated brains did not show any signs of the organized electrical neural activity required for awareness or consciousness.