In this week's Science Saturday, we look at science news ranging from neuroscience to space exploration.
Researchers have built the first-ever map showing every single neuron and how they're wired together in the brain of a fruit fly larva. The Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology and the University of Cambridge led this ground-breaking research. This map contains more than 3,000 neurons that make up the larva's brain, and its neural circuit in detail. It marks a milestone for neuroscience, one that will ultimately help us understand the basic principles by which signals travel through the brain at the neural level, and bring about behavior and learning.
Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have developed a new device that can detect and analyze cancer cells in blood samples. It will enable doctors to avoid invasive biopsy surgeries, and monitor treatment progress. Called the Static Droplet Microfluidic device, it is able to rapidly detect circulating tumor cells that have broken away from a primary tumor and entered the bloodstream. The device differentiates tumor cells from normal blood cells by using a unique metabolic signature that cancer cells carry. This new technology is designed to aid research in clinical labs without high-end equipment and trained operators.
Four space station astronauts returned to Earth on March 11 after a quick SpaceX flight. Their capsule splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida coast near Tampa. The U.S.-Russian-Japanese crew spent five months at the International Space Station. Besides dodging space junk, the astronauts had to deal with a pair of leaking Russian capsules docked to the orbiting outpost, and the urgent delivery of a replacement craft. Remaining behind at the space station are three Americans, three Russians and one from the United Arab Emirates.
Data transmission record
Researchers have set a new record for data transmission. Using one small computer chip, they moved 1.84 petabits of data per second. That equals 122 million high definition movies streaming at the same time. To send a lot of data at once, multiple laser light beams have to be transmitted through a single fiber optic cable with great precision, which easily limits transmission speed. Using a special technology called microcombs to replace the traditional laser light mechanism, researchers were able to lift speed limits. Previously, such a feat would have required many more chips and consumed far more energy.