Sci/Tech briefs

Nostrils compete to process scents

Researchers conducted a study that resulted in new information on how the brain processes scents. In the study, volunteers simultaneously sampled smells from two bottles with different odors, one through each nostril. Researchers found that the brain processed the smells in an alternating fashion, with participants switching between perceiving each of the scents. Rather than smelling a mixture of the two smells, the smells alternate in a binary rivalry. Understanding this perception, called an “olfactory illusion,” might help cure olfactory disorders, particularly those affecting the elderly.

Source: ScienceDaily

Wikipedia adds editorial review

Within weeks, Wikipedia will impose editorial review on articles about living people before any changes become public. Edits to pages about living people will become “flagged revisions,” which will be invisible to visitors until an experienced volunteer approves of any changes. Those at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that governs Wikipedia, hope that this will make Wikipedia more dependable given its large size and influence.

The system is particularly important for pages about living people because inaccurate information can be very harmful. Some pages are already “protected” or “semi-protected,” including articles on Britney Spears and President Obama, limiting editing capabilities to only certain Wikipedia contributors.

Source: The New York Times

Scientists explain decline in bees

Honey bee colonies may be declining due to damage in their internal production of proteins. Bees make proteins using ribosomes, and a study of sick bees found fragments of ribosomal RNA in the bees’ gut. These bees suffered infections that attack the ribosome, preventing bees from responding to life-threatening problems, such as pesticides and inadequate nutrition.

Additionally, a virus that damages the ribosomes is carried by Varroa mites, which were accidentally introduced in the U.S. in 1986. This virus might contribute to ribosome breakdown among bees.

Source: Associated Press

More mosquitoes may reduce disease

Researchers found that a less dense mosquito population results in bigger mosquitoes that pose more of a risk of spreading disease. An experiment where density of Aedes vigilax mosquitoes was reduced by a factor of 10 resulted in female adults increasing in size by 8 percent, living 48 percent longer, and laying 67 percent more eggs.

This finding is likely a result of less competition for food, resulting in the ability to become bigger. The mosquitoes’ increased lifespan is a cause for concern because the longer a mosquito lives, the further it can fly and the more easily it can spread disease. This new information on mosquitoes suggests that mosquito control programs should focus on areas with low density of mosquitoes in addition to those areas with high mosquito density.

Source: ABC News