Health & Science

Moose trail leads to arthritis; A perfect pour; The first butcher; Green is stormy; What really ailed Lou

Moose trail leads to arthritis

Arthritis was once thought to result from heavy wear and tear on the body, says The New York Times. But moose bones from Isle Royale, Mich., point to another explanation: nutritional deficiencies in childhood. Researchers analyzed moose bones that showed signs of arthritis and noted that arthritic moose were generally small, suggesting an early deficit of nutrients. In fact, when the moose populations expanded, increasing competition for food, the incidence of arthritis increased, as well. The findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that human osteoarthritis may be triggered by nutritional imbalances early in life that cause bones or joints to grow improperly. “It makes perfect sense,” says arthritis researcher Joanne Jordan, who was not involved in the study. “Osteoarthritis starts way before the person knows it.”

A perfect pour

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If you like Dom Perignon, then treat it like Budweiser, says Scientific American. Carbon dioxide delivers a crucial element of the Champagne experience—providing fizz, intensifying aroma, and sharpening the drink’s bite. But for every carbon dioxide molecule trapped in a tasty bubble, four escape into the air, a team of French researchers has found. What’s more, pouring Champagne into a glass accelerates the process by increasing surface area and turbulence. In order to reduce CO2 loss, food chemists at France’s University of Reims tested pouring methods: First the traditional way, in which Champagne is poured straight into a vertical glass, and then the beer-drinker’s method, which entails pouring into a glass held at an angle, so that the liquid slides down the side. Using infrared thermography to map escaping carbon dioxide, the researchers concluded that a beer-style pour preserves more bubbles. Given the high stakes, notes Gérard Liger-Belair and his French colleagues, “would not it be pertinent to revisit the way Champagne should be served?”

The first butcher

Humans have long been carnivores. But a recent fossil discovery suggests our hominid ancestors were consuming it—and butchering it with hand tools—nearly a million years earlier than was previously believed. Paleontologists in Ethiopia unearthed bones from two mammals bearing scrape marks from carving. For good measure, the bones had been smashed to access the marrow. The bones date back around 3.4 million years, to the era of the hominid fossil known as “Lucy.” Previously, the oldest confirmed stone tools were about 2.5 million years old. “Now, when we imagine Lucy walking around the East African landscape looking for food,” German archaeologist Shannon McPherron tells Nature News, “we can for the first time imagine her with a stone tool in hand and looking for meat.”

Green is stormy

It seems hurricanes are not colorblind. The primary color in many parts of the ocean is green, thanks to a profusion of microscopic, photosynthetic organisms called phytoplankton. By absorbing sunlight, the phytoplankton keep the surface waters warm—creating breeding conditions for hurricanes. By contrast, sunlight penetrates clear blue water to greater depths, allowing underwater currents to dissipate the heat. Using climate models, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studied how hurricanes would develop depending on ocean color—a proxy for phytoplankton. “I was really quite surprised,” oceanographer and study author Anand Gnanadesikan tells National Geographic News. Draining key parts of the North Pacific of phytoplankton, for instance, cut by two-thirds the number of hurricanes moving north from the tropics. Records from the 1960s seem to bolster that model, showing that cyclone activity then was about 20 percent lower than today in an area of the Pacific where phytoplankton was also lower by half. In the future, Gnanadesikan and his team intend to use satellite data to chart changes in ocean color, then track the correspondence to tropical storms.

What really ailed Lou

Did Lou Gehrig have Lou Gehrig’s disease? The Yankees first baseman died in 1941 after what seemed to be a two-year bout with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a rare, incurable neurodegenerative disease that acquired his name. But a recent study suggests that Gehrig may instead have suffered the effects of repeated brain injuries, which can mimic the symptoms of ALS. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine examined brain tissue from three deceased athletes—one boxer and two NFL players—who’d been diagnosed with ALS. They found evidence of two proteins associated with a different motor neuron disease, called chronic traumatic encephalomyopathy, which occurs disproportionately in athletes who’ve suffered multiple concussions. The finding could help explain why athletes and military vets are diagnosed with ALS at rates considerably above average. Gehrig had several concussions in his 14-year baseball career, and played football halfback in high school and college. “Here he is, the face of his disease, and he may have had a different disease,” study author Ann McKee tells The New York Times. Scientists will never know for sure; Gehrig was cremated.

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