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In this week's news, Hank explains how earthworms are doing nanotechnology for us, Americans will soon be eating genetically modified salmon, the Russians are going back to space, and another reason to drink less soda.

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Hello, and welcome to SciShow Breaking News. This week: earthworms are doing technology for us, Americans will soon be eating genetically engineered salmon, the Russians are going back to space - the same space which could, apparently, damage your brain. Oh! And another reason to drink less soda!



Ah, yes! Coca Cola and the continuing high fructose corn syrup debate! Of course, this is important because suddenly the developed world's most significant health threat is over-eating and it turns out fructose is really good at getting eaten.


Not only is fructose tasty, it's the stuff that makes fruit sweet and it's full of the energy our monkey selves need to survive. But according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, when you consume fructose your brain doesn't notice that you're being fed.


Now this isn't a super easy study to do, since it relies on people regularly getting brain scans after consuming a sugary beverage either sweetened with glucose or with fructose, so the sample size was fairly small, but the correlations were strong. Consuming glucose registered with the brain as consuming calories, while consuming fructose registers significantly less.


Of course high fructose corn syrup isn't the only source of fructose, it's unhealthy alternatives like agave nectar and fruit juice as well, so probably your best bet is just consume less sugary things.


But sugar is natural. Indeed every molecule of sugar you've ever eaten was produced by living things in some manner or another. We can make glucose in the lab from CO2 using some fancy, complicated, and expensive organic chemistry, but why would we? There's sugar in pretty much every living thing and it's abundant in a ton of cheap crops.


But unfortunately for us there aren't any cadmium telluride flowers or fruits in the world out there creating complicated nanoparticles for us to extract for our use.


Cadmium telluride quantum dots are fluorescent nanoparticles used in medical imaging and are superior to other medical dyes. But of course since they're currently made in laboratories through complicated techniques, they are expensive.


Well last week scientists published a paper in Nature Nanotechnology outlining that earthworms already have within them the chemistry necessary to convert cadmium and tellurium salts into luminescent quantum dots.


Earthworms can do this because cadmium and tellurium are toxic heavy metals and for earthworms dealing with heavy metals is a daily hazard, so they have specific biological pathways designed for handling them.


Those detoxification pathways convert biologically available cadmium and tellurium salts into quantum dots, which were then harvested - yeah, the worms had to die - and used in live cell imaging.


It's easy to forget that nature is just way better than us at a lot of stuff still. Engineered yeasts and viruses have previously been created to create fancy, expensive, super advanced nanomaterials as well.


Speaking of genetic engineering, the salmon on your plate may soon have some significant genetic differences from natural salmon. In order to increase salmon farm yields, a company called AquaBounty has created a new kind of salmon that grows twice as fast as Atlantic salmon but tastes the same.


Two genes were added, one from the Pacific salmon to help the Atlantic salmon grow faster, and one from an eel to encourage the salmon to grow year-round. The FDA will likely not require a separate label on the fish, so if you want to avoid genetically engineered food either don't live in the United States or stick to wild salmon, the harvesting of which of course has its own impacts to consider.


While the health impacts of genetically engineered food remains a topic for debate, we know one thing is definitely bad for you: outer space. The conditions that astronauts are exposed to in their travels in outer space are known to increase the risk of cancer and cause loss of bone density and cataracts, but research down at the University of Rochester Medical Center indicates that exposure to cosmic radiation could also increase space travelers' risk of Alzheimer's disease. The concern is a specific sort of radiation: high energy, high mass particles, not your every day radiation. This stuff comes not from the sun, but from exploding stars, and there have been enough supernovae in the galaxy that a trip to Mars would result in a significant dose.These particles are moving so fast that they fly right through the hull of a space ship.


A strain of mice that were designed to be susceptible to a disease analogous to Alzheimer's were subjected to this crazy form of radiation and developed the disease significantly more frequently than a control group.


But that's not gonna keep us out of space you guys! Never! Indeed, the Russian government just pledged to increase space science by roughly tripling their space exploration to seven billion dollars per year for the next seven years. Dmitry Medvedev that this re-commitment "will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects such as the International Space Station, the study of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies in the Solar System." He said it in Russian.


Though let it be known that Russia's space budget under this new initiative is still less than half of what the US currently spends. Still, I'd love to see the US increasing exploration science budgets in these crazy difficult times. Any amount at all, let alone triple current levels.


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