Discovered: Antarctic ice methane could hasten global warming; tuning an instrument also tunes the brain; NASA survey finds millions of potential black holes; low-cal diets don't improve lifespan.
There's a hot dog in the Milky Way's future. NASA held a press conference today to announce new findings about supermassive black holes and other "extreme objects" found via the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which scanned the entire sky on infrared wavelengths twice. The most sensitive measurement of the sky yet, WISE discovered millions of black holes candidates as well as 1,000 extremely bright galaxies undergoing drastic transformations. These galaxies are called Hot DOGs (or Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxies), and they're formed when two spiral galaxies collide, creating a whirlwind of dust and stars that emits 100 trillion times the light of our sun. They theorize that these Hot DOGs are the result of black holes at the center of galaxies, which accrete surrounding matter at accelerating rates, eventually drawing nearby galaxies into a collision course with one another. The Milky Way and our nearest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, may end up forming a Hot DOG in the distant future. [NASA/JPL]
Methane trapped in Antarctic ice could speed global warming. With Antarctic ice melting at an alarming rate, scientists are worried about a chemical trapped inside the Antarctic Ice Sheet. An international team of researchers have worked to simulate the result of methane gas escaping from Antarctic ice. The methane deposits stored in Antarctic ice likely built up over millions of years, and if it leaked into the ozone layer due to the thaw brought on by climate change, it will only hasten global warming's effects. "The Antarctic Ice Sheet could constitute a previously neglected component of the global methane hydrate inventory although significant uncertainty exists," the researchers report in a paper published in Nature. [Reuters]
Low calorie diets may not lengthen life. There are some nutritionists out there who think that the secret to prolonging life is consuming as few calories as possible. But a major long-term study on calorie restriction shows that such diets may not lead to longer lifespans. Monkeys put on a severely restrictive low-calorie diet over the course of a 23-year study didn't live longer to their more gluttonous peers, researchers at the National Institute on Aging have found. The skinny primates did perform well on certain health measures and had better metabolisms, but they didn't survive any longer than control group monkeys. "These monkeys were healthier than really healthy control counterparts," says NIA scientist Julie Mattison. "So it’s quite possible that we’ve maximized our lifespan effect." However, restricted calorie diets have been shown to lengthen life in rats, flies and worms in previous studies. [Bloomberg]
Music fine-tunes the brain. Piano tuners don't seem to have enviable jobs. They have to listen to off-key pianos all day, and travel around to peoples' homes to tinker around inside old, complicated instruments. But new research shows that their work might actually be quite stimulating, at least neurologically. Scientists from the University College London and Newcastle University find that listening to two notes played at the same moment causes the brain to adapt, leading to beneficial structural changes in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that controls functions like memory and navigation, and the piano tuners they studied had significantly different hippocampus structures than non-musical peers. Researcher Sundeep Teki says, "We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialised form of listening." [BBC]