Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

NME’s weekly science dose (Oct 11 – Oct 18)

Cancer – this is our focus this week. In a special report (the first of several) at Nature Middle East, this week we are putting cancer in the Arab World under the spotlight. Our editorial will set you off on where the problem lies: we have a serious problem, but there’s little we actually know about it. Doctors are basically stumbling in the dark trying to fend off an unseen enemy. For example, some researchers suspect that Arab women may be getting a more aggressive form of breast cancer than their Western counterparts. But without proper registries in Arab states, we cannot really be sure. Genetic studies are already showing links between cancer and common diseases in the region, such as diabetes.

That’s why several states are taking a more research-focused look at the region now. Some countries, such as Egypt, have started setting up registries to monitor cases. The disease burden varies across the region too, as well as how the states deal with it. Gulf states have been more successful than most states in the region with monitoring, where nearly everyone gets screened. Other states, mostly those in Northern Africa, have poorly managed to the disease, which has led to fast growth that the healthcare systems are unable to deal with.

On a different note, researchers studying the fossils of ancient insects that lived hundreds of millions of years ago found that they show an unexpected level of diversity. In the past, these insects were overlooked due to their tiny sizes, which pit them as miniature versions of their current ancestors. They do offer a unique look at that period of time, however, showing there was already wide diversity of insects some 300 million years ago.

Beyond the hood

You might think that monkey communities are noisy, with all the monkeys calling out at the same time, but seems you would be mistaken. Unlike some humans, other primates may actually be used to taking turns in conversations. Researchers decided to study how marmosets communicate and found that they never repeat the same line. Instead, after one marmoset has finished its call, the other monkey waits roughly five seconds before replying. Like humans, they also reacted to the speed of the call. So when one marmoset increased the speed of its call, the other responded in the same manner.

Finally, for our last piece in the highlight this week we go out to the stars, where NASA has discovered the first “tilted” solar system. our solar system is flat, with all the planets orbiting around the Sun’s equator. But Kepler-56, a star that is roughly some 2,800 light years away is different. It’s two stars rotate around the star at a skewed angle of 45 degrees to the star’s equator. By measuring the velocity of Kepler-56, the researchers found that there was a huge body that pulled the star and shifted the angle of its equator. the planets keep its other in track by their gravitational forces, keeping their orbits co-planar.

 

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