Scientists May Have Discovered a New Natural Force

Researchers at the Fermilab near Chicago, a world famous particle accelerator, have found an unexplainable signal in one of their series of experiments. The Fermilab is a physics laboratory investigating the basic principles of existence, dissecting the forces governing the smallest of particles in the universe, smaller than atoms – hardly imaginable and only explicable with complicated mathematical formulations.

At the beginning of April, some signals did not fit at all into current mathematical models. After vigorous recalculations of the experiments, they could only just verify that they may have discovered a natural force than cannot be explained by current mathematical models. The signal could only be attributed to a fifth natural force as it did not fit at all into the know categories of forces, namely:

(1) Gravity (i.e. the attraction of two greater objects, such as the apple falling to the floor)
(2) Electromagnetism (the attraction of negatively and positively charged objects and particles)
(3) Strong nuclear force (holds the nuclei of atoms together)
(4) Weak nuclear force (it forces unstable atomic nuclei to decay)

The new calculations in the Fermilab would explain how smaller particles are held together at extremely low distances. However, such a find would revolutionise the current thinking of physics and may even help research in fields such as: propulsion research and alternative energy sources.

The researchers were investigating the forces involved in the collision of protons and anti-protons  (both very small particles in the core of matter and anti-matter) with almost the speed of light in order to elucidate natural forces and get more answers to the forces that were involved at the early stages of the universe after the Big Bang. They saw some signals 250 times greater than expected with the current model. This data would only make sense, if small particles 160 times smaller than protons, were present. The particles would have no mass per se, but mass would be conferred to them by bigger particles.

This phenomenon was explained by the British physicist David Miller: Members of a political party are distributed equally in a room. Suddenly, Margaret Thatcher enters the room and people will slowly flock to her, giving her surrounding a greater mass. Now, if some person spreads a rumour about her, people will automatically flock to that person. Although, the rumour itself does not have a mass, the mass near the people spreading the rumour would increase, equally to that of the former premier minister herself.

More research will be necessary to either explain the phenomenon with the current understanding of physics, or to change our current model. It will be fascinating to watch the news on this topic.


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Bipolar Disorder Hits the Headlines

Catherine Zeta-Jones is the latest celebrity to hit the headlines as a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder. Earlier this month, her publicist announced that the Oscar winning actress made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat Ms Zeta-Jones’ Bipolar II Disorder after dealing with the stress of the past year.

Catherine Zeta-Jones has been praised by mental health charities for the bravery of her openness about suffering from Bipolar Disorder – especially as there is unfortunately still stigma and misunderstanding about the condition and mental illness in general. One only needs to look at the derogatory comments on Twitter and Facebook in reaction to this news for an example of the way mental illness is treated by some members of the public.

Mental health professionals have a much better understanding of Bipolar Disorder these days than 20 years ago. This is reflected by the fact that Manic Depression, the old name for Bipolar Disorder, is no longer used by psychiatrists because every sufferer of this condition does not necessarily experience manic AND depressive episodes. Catherine Zeta-Jones for example has a diagnosis which means she would mainly suffer from periods of depression and may only have rare or occasional mild manic episodes. In fact, there is now discussion about a Bipolar Spectrum which covers every variation of this condition from its mildest forms to the most extreme cases. You can find out more information about Bipolar Disorder, its symptoms and treatment on the NHS Choices website.

Approximately 1 in every 100 people will suffer from symptoms of Bipolar Disorder at some point in their life. The condition has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In recent times, more and more people in the public eye have talked about their diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and there are also historical figures who are believed to have been affected by the condition. Below are the names of some famous Bipolar sufferers from the past and present:

  • Adam Ant – singer
  • Russell Brand – comedian & actor
  • Frank Bruno – boxer
  • Stephen Fry – actor, comedian & writer
  • Mel Gibson – actor & director
  • Macy Gray – singer
  • Ernest Hemingway – writer
  • Nina Simone – singer
  • Vincent Van Gogh – artist
  • Virginia Woolf – writer

As you can see from the list of names, many Bipolar sufferers are creative individuals who have had successful careers or been blessed by incredible talent. As these famous names demonstrate, although Bipolar Disorder can make individuals vunerable and fragile, it is not always the case that someone who is affected by the condition cannot achieve their ambitions and dreams.

There are a number of charities out there that raise awareness about Bipolar Disorder and support those affected by the condition. Most notable are MDF, Equilibrium and Rethink. Other mental health charities include Mind and SANE. Check out their websites for more information and how to make a donation, if you so wish.

Image reproduced from The Guardian: Chris Pizzello/AP

A Cambridge-Oxford Motorway?

Have you ever tried to travel to Oxford from Cambridge? The journey is cumbersome, long and tiring. For a long time, people have wanted to build a motorway between the two old university towns. This would not only be beneficial to the two universities, but also relieve the North of London of a lot of traffic.

In fact, exchanges between the two of the oldest educational centres of England have been hindered for many years by the fact that travelling from one place to the other is just too difficult. Why travel to Oxford if you can travel to Paris in the same time? That seems ludicrous, considering how close Cambridge and Oxford actually are – they are a mere 80 miles apart and travelling from one place to the other takes over three hours. The issue has now been rekindled in parliament and is being openly discussed.

Such a plan may help create a British “Silicon Valley”, helping to establish a more knowledge-based economy. In fact, science and technology has always been Britain’s strength and this project would help create many jobs and improve the economic situation on a long run. Even public transport between the cities is not easy and the region would benefit from a direct rail line, which is an idea rooted even further in the future.

On the other hand, a motorway puts an immense strain on the local environment and threatens many habitats and will have a huge impact on nature. Would the beautiful landscape and the fens be at stake with such an ambitious project? What about all the people living in adjacent villages, do they really want a new motorway cutting through their neighbourhood?

Especially at times where economic prospects look slimmer we have to look ahead to the future and choose spending wisely and for the benefit of the economic development and the people who live in the area.

This project has massive pros and cons and if realised would impact many of us. What do you think? We would like to invite you as our readers to let us and your neighbours know your opinion.

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Cambridge University iPhone App

Now it is official! Cambridge University has its own iPhone application. This is a great service that allows connecting the pressing news from the University of Cambridge to your iPhone, iPad touch and iPad. It is a free application available for everyone and will keep you updated with news from the University. Just log onto the iTunes store and download it today!

This tool is following the trends set by great American institutions such as Harvard and Stanford University. The app itself is divided into five major categories: news, events, media, maps and library. That makes the menu very user friendly and easy to manage. It helps keeping university staff, students and visitors informed about the daily happenings and Cambridge University organises many events that everyone can attend. With the fast growing user base of mobile technology, this app will soon be indispensable for people from Cambridge. It can even create a list of lectures, which will make student life more comfortable and inform the general public also about guest speakers!

Cambridge is once again showing its innovative and modern nature and its integration of leading technology into its infrastructure. The university is one of the biggest contributors to the local economy and is continuously looking for talented people to get involved.

So why not download one of the best local apps today and connect your mobile to a modern way of thinking?

Scientists Discover Alzheimer’s Genes

Researchers at Cardiff University say they’ve found five new genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Through our ongoing research, we are finding genes that increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, allowing us to pinpoint what may be going wrong, biologically, in the brain,” said Julie Williams, who headed up the Cardiff study.

Alzheimer’s, a form of degenerative dementia, is a complex condition made up of various elements. Scientists believe it’s 80% genetic.

The new research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, brings the total of known genes associated with the condition to 10. The more of these genes someone has, the more likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s.

The five new genes affect three bodily processes — the immune system, the ways the brain processes cholesterol and lipids and the process of removing toxic amyloid-beta protein from the brain. The latter process, called endocytosis, is also affected by a number of other Alzheimer’s-related genes.

“We now have four genes that implicate this very precise process and it offers a very big clue that this process is playing a strong role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Williams.

If researchers can develop treatments that target these processes, it would significantly reduce people’s chances of developing the disease.

What’s more, if doctors could treat the effects of all 10 genes, the number of Alzheimer’s cases would be reduced by a massive 60%, according to the study.

“This study, plus our previous studies, means that we are beginning to piece together the pieces of the jigsaw and gain new understanding. We still have a long way to go – but the jigsaw is beginning to come together. If we were able to remove the detrimental effects of these genes through treatments, we hope we can help reduce the proportion of people developing Alzheimer’s in the long-term,” said Williams.

However, the researchers warn any treatments that result from this study are at least 15 years away.

City Connect encourages you to learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and help fund research to find a cure by visiting the Alzheimer’s Society website.