So You Think You Know

The word “science” conjures up memories of beakers, Bunsen burners, and brown paper-wrapped textbooks from high school. Here are a few stories that you might have missed in your daily newsgathering and definitely weren’t taught in your Grade Nine science class:

Fatty fuels

Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat company, thinks they have found the answer to the world’s energy woes. Working with synthetic fuel research firm Syntroleum Corporation, the duo has opened a plant to study the idea of converting animal fat into a renewable diesel fuel. The fats are reacted with a type of alcohol, and placed under high temperature and pressure; the product is a hydrocarbon identical in chemical makeup to diesel. Despite the hefty costs of refining such a fuel, it is said to have 58-80 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum diesel.

Purposing the placebo effect

New studies have found that placebo pills do work – even when the patient is aware of them. The study found that 60 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome said they felt better after knowingly taking sugar pills twice a day. Ted Kaptchuk, as associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said that while a larger trial was needed, placebos could be used to treat common ailments like pain and anxiety by fooling the patient.

Icy eruptions

Scientists have discovered what appears to be a “cryovolcano,” or an ice volcano, on the surface of Titan, one of Saturn’s largest moons. Using new 3D maps based on images captured from the Cassini spacecraft, scientists have found strong evidence of this ice volcano’s existence upon Titan where temperatures are thought to reach as low as -180 degrees Celsius. As the name suggests, ice volcanoes erupt a watery mixture that flows out and turns to ice. The volcano is exciting to scientists as it could suggest the existence of water beneath the moon’s surface and could point to the existence of life.

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