This Week in STEM – April 26, 2019

This Week in STEM – April 26, 2019

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

After a $14-Billion Upgrade, New Orleans’ Levees Are Sinking

Scientific American

The $14 billion network of levees and floodwalls that was built to protect greater New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a seemingly invincible bulwark against flooding.

But now, 11 months after the Army Corps of Engineers completed one of the largest public works projects in world history, the agency says the system will stop providing adequate protection in as little as four years because of rising sea levels and shrinking levees.

I Feel For You: The Brain Registers Other People’s Pain The Same As Their Own Pain


Why do we get sad when we see someone else cry? And why do we shudder when a friend cuts his finger?

To find the answer to these questions, scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience investigated the origin of empathy in the brains of rats. The research showed that the perception of other people’s pain activates the same brain cells as the experience of one’s own pain. With this study, the researchers are taking an important step towards understanding psychiatric disorders that underlie a lack of empathy.

The findings were published on April 11 in the leading journal Current Biology.

Researchers found out that the brain lets us share the pain of others by activating the same cells that cause our own pain. The presence of these cells, also called mirror neurons, has not yet been demonstrated in the brain area that is involved in empathy.

A Tremor on Mars Confirms a Lasting Suspicion

The Atlantic

Because we’ve been sitting on the same rock for thousands of years, sometimes our language can tend to be a little Earth-centric. The word earthquake, for example, feels universal, as if it can be applied to any shaking ground. But zoom out beyond our tectonic plates, and the vocabulary shifts.

Mars, for instance, has marsquakes.

They sound too silly to be real, as if a Netflix show about future Mars settlements made up a scary natural disaster. But tremors on Mars are a thing, and right now scientists believe they have detected a quake on Mars for the first time.