January Good News

January+Good+News

Liam Regan, Staff Assistant

 The Schreiber Times is starting off 2022 with good news stories from around the world. 

In 2021, seventy new plant and animal species were discovered including, fourteen beetles, twelve sea slugs, nine ants, seven fish, six scorpions, five sea stars, five flowering plants, four sharks, three spiders, two sea pens, one moss, one pygmy pipehorse, and one caecilian, an amphibious worm.  These species were discovered all around the world, on forest floors, in the middle of the desert, and even some in deep sea locations.  

“Our relationship to nature improves with each new species, deepening our understanding of how our planet works,” said Dr. Shannon Bennett, a California Academy of Sciences virologist.

One of the new species discovered, the pink pygmy pinkhorse, was the first new genus of pinkhorse to be found in New Zealand in over 100 years.  These discoveries are significant because they are proof of how many undiscovered creatures are still out there.  Scientists believe that upon further research, we will come across new species that have never been identified before. 

China has successfully designed a nuclear fusion reactor that performed for a longer period of time than the previous record, which was set in July of 2021.  Scientists at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) were able to achieve a temperature of 120 million degrees Fahrenheit, or 70 million degrees Celsius, in plasma for approximately 17 and a half minutes.  This is important for several reasons: first, we can use the heating of plasma to generate electricity, and the longer it is heated the more electricity can be generated.  

“We achieved a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds in an experiment in the first half of 2021.  This time, steady-state plasma operation was sustained for 1,056 seconds at a temperature close to 70 million degrees Celsius, laying a solid scientific and experimental foundation toward the running of a fusion reactor,” said Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Plasma Institute.

The scientists were able to increase the duration of time it was heated by tenfold, which means that we would be able to create considerably more energy.  In addition, EAST was able to surpass its previous record from last year in only a few months, meaning that significant progress has been made in a short period of time.  This is promising because nuclear power could serve as a potential substitute for our current, unsustainable ways of generating energy.  Burning fossil fuels harms the environment, and there is a limited supply of both oil and natural gas.  Harnessing the power of atoms could be the ideal, environmentally friendly solution. 

“I have heard about the problems with our current ways to generate electricity, so when I heard about this possibility I was interested because it could be a cleaner and more available way to generate energy so that the environment would not be harmed,” said junior Sean Mondschein. 

In other news, CRISPR Cas-9, a gene editing technology that was discovered in the early 2000s, has been suggested to be able to target fat cells, according to a new study.  Biochemists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier created the technique roughly two decades ago, and it was groundbreaking because the ability to edit specific sections of the incredibly complex genome offers endless possibilities.  Scientists hypothesize that it could be used to cure hereditary and genetic disorders, but a new study revealed that it can be used to specifically target adipose cells.  They used CRISPR to target brown fat, a type of fat cell that generates heat and helps to regulate body temperature, in a certain type of mouse, and found that the knockout mice could still control their body temperature even without the gene coding for brown fat.  These results are promising because obesity is currently a major epidemic, so the fact that scientists could use CRISPR to help to reduce this problem could prove groundbreaking. 

“Using CRISPR to help treat obesity would be great because so many people would be able to benefit from it.  I know that many countries struggle with obesity, so I hope that this technique ends up working,” said junior Antonio Sottile.