In another exciting Week in Science we're suffering from a spot of 'bird flu', we've discovered dolphins actually have names for each other just like we do, and we could soon have living, biological computers.
Meanwhile we've also discovered that your breath, far from being bad, is as unique as your fingerprint, and could be used to both identify you, and diagnose disease.
Breathe here please, we need to check your ID -- We recently heard about how you can diagnose stomach and other cancers from the chemical composition of your breath, but now it seems that each person's breath signature is unique, just like a fingerprint. Using a mass spectrometer, Switzerland-based scientists discovered that the metabolites ejected within each person's breath produce a unique and consistent signature. They can also detect a change associated with disease, which means it could be possible in the future to not only identify someone from their breath, but also to disgnose illness instantly from just a whiff or two. [PloS One]
New 'bird flu' found in China -- You might have thought that 'bird flu' has been and gone, but what's commonly reported as bird or avian flu is simply Influenza that finds its reservoir within birds, but can make the jump to humans. A new strain, designated H7N9, has been reported to have killed two, and caused serious sickness in another, in China. Thankfully there's no indication of human-to-human spread of the disease, which means there's no need to panic just yet, but it seems H7N9 could spread symptomlessly through poultry populations. That's good news for birds, but not so good news for us, as it makes keeping track of its spread much more difficult. [Nature (opens in new tab)]
Have we just found dark matter? -- It seems we might have, as the ISS-mounted $2-billion particle detector has spotted what looks like an excess of antimatter particles. Antimater electrons or positrons are thought to be produced when two dark-matter particles collide, annihilating each other. However, scientists aren't sure just yet where these excess antimatter particles have come from, as it's possible they could have been spat out by nearby pulsars. Further experiments are needed to study the energy levels of the particles to determine their origin, but it could be that we've taken the first crucial step to detecting and possibly understanding the strange theorised dark matter that fills our universe. [Scientific American]
The Earth has a nuclear reactor at its core -- Geologists have known for some time that the heat emanating from within the core of our home planet wasn't just primordial heat created in the original formation of the planet. Now new evidence from neutrino detectors has pinpointed both uranium and thorium at its nuclear heart, and it's only since the meltdown, and following shutdown, of the nuclear power plants in Japan that scientists have begun to capture these once-masked 'geoneutrinos'. More work is needed, and possibly more detectors spread about the Earth while we're at it, before we'll be able to truly characterise the processes at the centre of the Earth. [Nature (opens in new tab)]
Heat melts one as another grows -- Scientists think they have found a reason for the rather counter-intuitive phenomenon of melting and growing sea ice. As sea ice in the Artic is rapidly vanishing, due to rising temperatures, Antarctic sea ice is actually growing in size. It seems this is caused by an insulating layer of cool freshwater that's sitting on the sub-surface of the Antarctic sea, deposited by melting shelf ice. This layer protects the existing floating ice from the warmer deeper water, and combined with cooler air, allows more sea ice to form. It's unclear what effect this will have on sea levels, as the cooler air above the Antarctic won't be able to hold as much moisture as previously thought, but it just goes to show how complex the issue of climate and sea level change really is. [Nature Geoscience (opens in new tab)]