Round-up of science news from the week that includes a possible vaccine for dengue, cosmic rays in the Milky Way and other news stories
Trees stressed by warming climate can change how much carbon dioxide (CO2) they release in the atmosphere, a new study has suggested. Earlier studies had indicated that their rate of respiration is linked to temperature. The five-year-long study showed that the trees exposed to warmer temperatures over long periods increased their respiration rate lesser than expected. The study indicated that although this could slow climate change, it will not make much of a dent in warming estimates
Scientists have long believed that cosmic rays from inside our galaxy come from supernova explosions, but a new study points out to another source, a massive black hole in the Milky Way. High-energy particles known as cosmic rays pass space at a range of very high energies. The finding may facilitate the study of cosmic rays and their accompanying gamma rays separately
Chances of a new particle at the world's largest particle accelerator have become stronger. The excess of photons produced by particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has interested scientists since the past three months, since December. Physicists had announced an excess of pairs of γ-ray photons with a combined energy of around 750 gigaelectronvolts. That excess of has now become slightly more significant, owing to a fresh analysis reported on 17 March.
Records from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that passed close to Pluto last July reveal that atmospheric escape rate of the planet is lower than expected. All planets lose a small portion of their atmospheres to space, if individual gas molecules get hot enough and reach escape velocity. Scientists thought that the dwarf planet’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere was eroding into space at a rate of 1027 molecules per second, but data shows the rate is four orders of magnitude lower. One explanation is that a thick layer of haze particles act as coolants, absorbing solar energy that would heat up nitrogen gas molecules.
A possible vaccine for dengue has been tested on humans. This provides the strongest evidence of a vaccine being able to prevent dengue. They deliberately infected volunteers with a weakened form of the disease-causing virus. This method of testing vaccines, known as ‘human challenge’. None of the vaccinated became sick from the challenge virus or showed the virus in their blood. However, dengue virus was found in the blood of all who had received the dummy vaccine.
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