”Know it all”

10 February-16 February

1. A new planet discovered by the astronomers around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system

Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) in Chile discovered evidence of another planet around Proxima Centauri, our Solar System’s closest star. This potential planet is the third to be discovered in the system, and it is the lightest yet. The planet is also one of the lightest exoplanets yet discovered, weighing only a fourth of Earth’s mass. Proxima d, the newly discovered planet, orbits Proxima Centauri at a distance of around four million kilometers, less than a tenth of the distance Mercury is from the Sun. Proxima b, a planet with a mass comparable to Earth that rounds the star every 11 days and is within the habitable zone, and candidate Proxima c, a planet with a longer five-year orbit around the star, are both known to orbit the star. The HARPS instrument on ESO’s 3.6-meter telescope was used to detect Proxima b a few years ago.

2. Even monkeys can choke under pressure like humans

The study, which comprised tufted capuchin monkeys living in groups at Georgia State’s Language Research Center, is the first to look into whether other species are under pressure to perform. A computerized matching exercise was provided to the monkeys. Some trials were designed to be more challenging, with a bigger potential reward and a timeout penalty for incorrect answers, while others were tougher than standard computer jobs. When the difference in difficulty was removed, the team discovered that there was significant variance in how individual monkeys responded to these trials, implying that for some monkeys, the cues of high stakes were enough to influence performance.

3. A slight change in your diet plan can add up to your life expectancy

Food is essential for good health, and dietary risk factors are estimated to cause 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life-years each year in the world. According to a new study published Feb. 8 in PLOS Medicine, a young adult in the United States could add more than a decade to their life expectancy by switching from a typical Western diet to an optimized diet that includes more legumes, whole grains, and nuts and less red and processed meat. The expected increases in life expectancy from such dietary adjustments would be modest, but still significant, for older persons.

4. Memory organization in time is aided by key brain systems

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have revealed key methods by which the hippocampal region of the brain organizes memories into sequences and how this information can be utilized to plan future action, in a scientific method. The discovery could be a crucial first step in understanding memory problems in cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. The project included experimental and data analysis phases and required more than three years to complete. While the rats were undergoing a series of odor identification tests, the researchers watched the firing of neurons in their brains. The scientists were able to evaluate the animals’ recollection of the correct order and detect how their brains captured these sequential associations by delivering five different odors in various sequences.

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