SciTech Briefs

Kidney found in an Egyptian mummy for the first time

In Portugal, researchers including Carlos Prates, a radiologist at Imagens Médicas Integradas in Lisbon, Portugal, have discovered a kidney within an Egyptian mummy for the first time. Through X-ray analysis, the researchers noticed a bean-shaped structure at the left lumbar region, which is believed to be a putty kidney, or a kidney with a calcified outlining. The calcifications are thought to be a result of renal tuberculosis, which is a disease that calcifies tissues and causes the gradual emergence of fibrous lesions. If the diagnosis is accurate, the mummy could be the oldest recorded victim of the disease.

Named Irtieru, the male mummy is estimated to have existed for about 2,800 years. Researchers believe Irtieru may have had connections with an elite family, and that he died when he was between 35 and 45 years of age. The mummy has been kept at the National Archaeology Museum in Libson. The findings were published in The International Journal of Paleopathology.

Source: Discovery News

Scammers claim to have Facebook dislike button

In early September, Facebook announced that it is working on a new button that will allow people to express their empathy when responding to a post. In response to this announcement, posts from scammers have emerged on users’ newsfeeds, with the claim that they can “get [the] newly introduced Facebook dislike button on your profile.” Through colors and logos, the posts were designed to look like they were branded by Facebook.

Researchers from Sophos, a software security company, have found that clicking on those posts led to two different scam sites, which then prompted users to disclose their personal information. In addition, interacting with these posts could lead to the download of malware onto users’ machines. The posts also require the user to share the link with their network of friends. Despite the prevalence of the term “dislike,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has made it clear that the company is avoiding the term in reference to their button.

Source: CBS News

Researchers store solar and wind energy in batteries

Scientists and engineers at Harvard University have found a way to store electrical energy from intermittent sources, including solar and wind energy, as rechargeable batteries. Known as flow batteries, these batteries utilize water-dissolved compounds, such as carbon and oxygen, which are nonflammable and abundant in nature. These compounds are used to pick up and release electrons during the battery’s operation. The research for the batteries was an expansion upon previous work, where the batteries had formally incorporated a toxic compound.

Another benefit of these batteries is that large amounts of energy for the batteries can be stored in liquids inside external tanks. Because of this, the flow batteries have been shown to be safer and more cost-effective option than other battery systems. Last Thursday, a paper about the new batteries was published in the journal Science. The researchers expect that in the near future, the flow batteries will become commercially available.

Source: ScienceDaily

Study contributes to argument that viruses are alive

In a new update, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses has defined seven orders of virus based on the categories of shape, size, genetic structure and reproductive ability. Since the evolutionary relationships behind most of the viral families remain unclear, researchers in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology decided to analyze the protein structures or “folds” that can be identified from the genome of all viruses and cells.

The folds allowed the researchers to see the rapid changes in the genomes of the viruses, while maintaining the same three-dimensional shape of the protein. Through computational methods, the researchers discovered many common protein folds between cells and viruses, as well as folds that are unique to viruses. Not only do these data suggest that viruses originated and coexisted with ancestors of modern cells, but they also suggests that viruses gained the ability to infect other cells. Ultimately, the findings challenge the notion that viruses are nonliving.

Source: ScienceDaily

Lawsuit claims that a macaque holds rights to selfie

Back in 2011, a macaque monkey named Naruto took a viral photo of himself after taking possession of an unattended camera. In San Francisco, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has recently filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court Northern District of California, claiming that Naruto holds rights to the photograph. The lawsuit is part of an effort to give nonhuman animals ownership of property, as well as rights beyond the basic necessities of life, with the belief that animals should be recognized for their capacity for personality and intelligence.

Defendants in the case are David John Slater and his company Wildlife Personalities Ltd., who PETA says claim copyright over the image. Blurb Inc. is also named as a defendant since they published a collection of photographs including the selfie in question. According to a lawyer from PETA, U.S. Copyright laws state that the being who took the photograph, rather than the owner of the camera, has rights to the original work, regardless of the species of the author.

Source: Discovery News

Top science book prize won by woman for the first time

For the first time in its 28-year existence, the Royal Society Winton prize for Science was awarded to a solo female writer. The Royal Society Winton prize for Science is Britain’s most prestigious science book award. Former recipients include prominent names such as Stephen Hawking, James Gleick, and Bill Bryson. This year’s recipient was Gaia Vince, an English journalist and broadcaster. She won the £25,000 prize during a ceremony in London last Thursday.

A former editor at the journal Nature, Vince has spent over two years journeying around the world, visiting places that have been severely impacted by humanity’s heavy usage of Earth’s resources. Her travels led to the publication of her book Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made. Her work was praised for its exploration of an under-reported area of science, as well as for contributing to the field of popular science books, which are said to be essential in reaching out to the public.

Source: The Guardian